Tag: Today’s Chicago Woman

Behind the words: a glimpse into a Travel journalist’s writing process

Here I am on one of the main streets in the legendary city of Granada in southern Spain, where I traveled last month with a group of fellow freelance Travel writers.

As you can see by the date of my last entry, it’s been a challenge to regularly write and post lately. With a full-time job and my freelance Travel writing, there always seems to be some deadline or priority competing for my time and attention. But I’m determined to get back to my regular conversations with you, which I’ve certainly missed. International travel is my true love—and sharing this passion with UrbanTravelGirl readers for the past five years (!) has been an honor and a joy. While I love sharing insights I’ve discovered through my travels, hearing about your global adventures keeps me encouraged and inspired. So I’m back, and looking forward to reconnecting!

Even though I often feel as if I’m moving 100 miles an hour, I was flattered when my friend and fellow freelance journalist Rosalind Cummings-Yeates invited me to take part in a “Blog Hop” that introduces bloggers from around the world to each other as they talk about their own writing processes—and how they uniquely share their perspectives. (Read about Rosalind and how she brings her words to life in this post.)

Going through this exercise and consciously thinking through what makes me tick—and how I move from concepts and ideas to a notebook or laptop to published articles and blog posts—has been a treat in itself. And I’m thrilled to introduce you UrbanTravelGirls to three other writers and bloggers I greatly respect—and who you’ll love getting to know. Please read on ….

What am I working on/writing now?

I recently visited the enchanting Spanish city of Granada, as well as its surrounding province, on a press trip for Travel journalists from the Midwestern United States. While in España last month, I also traveled to the capital city of Madrid and the much smaller but historically important northern city of León. I’m currently writing a series of posts for my Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine Travel blog and full-length articles based on that nine-day trip, from the incredible new Business Plus in-flight service offered by Iberia to the awesome cuisine offered at León’s Michelin-star Cocinandos to high-end experiences for About.com Luxury Travel.

Although I have a full-time “day job,” being able to still stay engaged as a freelance Travel writer gives me a way to maintain my creative muscle and endless sense of wanderlust. Obviously, I don’t have the time or flexibility to travel as often (or as far) as I’d like, so I’m delving more into scenes and stories closer to my home base of Chicago. Sometimes we’re so focused on exotic and far-away locations we miss rich adventures right in front of us!

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

Because I studied journalism as an undergraduate at Northwestern University’s renowned Medill School and have had the pleasure of covering everything from fashion and beauty to popular culture and music as a newspaper and online reporter, I bring a range of insights to the Travel writing I do. I’ve done Corporate Communications for large multinational companies like Boeing, and have been fortunate to see much of the world while on work assignments in countries as diverse as Iceland and Saudi Arabia. I also earned a master’s degree in Theological Studies at a United Methodist seminary on Northwestern’s campus, where many of my courses explored cross-cultural ministry and world religions. Delving deeply into the fundamental ways people of all races, ethnicities and cultures experience the spiritual and divine has given me invaluable insight into what makes us wonderfully different, yet on some levels very much alike.

My writing is (literally) richly colored by my perspective as an African-American woman who grew up in the American Midwest, but who’s traveled to nearly 35 countries and territories on four continents and lived abroad in Florence, Italy, and in a charming village outside Paris. So whether I’m waxing poetic about the rustic Italian cuisine at a restaurant on Chicago’s North Side, offering tips on renting apartments when traveling abroad, or encouraging folks to check out houses of worship when they’re on the road, I infuse this sensibility into everything I write. And in fact, my personal background often inspires the topics I choose to explore in the first place. That’s the importance of bringing your “full self” to the table, regardless of your career.

Why do I write what I do?

Paradoxically, I’m never more comfortable than when I’ve chosen to be an “outsider”—and I’ve made the challenging decisions to live as an expatriate and an immigrant in two European countries. At heart, I’m all about exhorting and evangelizing about the life-changing aspect of travel, whether you do it in your own backyard or on the other side of the globe. I believe it broadens your worldview, makes you more tolerant and accepting of other folks’ perspectives and viewpoints—and gives you greater appreciation for your own.

That’s why I encourage my readers to occasionally take the road less traveled. To “do one thing every day that scares you,” as former American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted as saying. I’m adaptable and comfortable with ambiguity, and try to go with the flow as circumstances change and evolve. While moving to the other side of the world isn’t possible, practical or even desirable for most people, sampling the unfamiliar—whether it’s a cuisine you’ve never tried or checking out an ethnically different neighborhood in your own town—often leads to a much richer experience than you ever imagined.

How does my writing process work?

After more than two decades as a journalist, I believe that everything I write—whether for UrbanTravelGirl or my Today’s Chicago Woman Travel blog—needs to be professional-quality before I put my name on it. (Yes, my perfectionist Capricorn tendencies are as strong as ever!) I’m TOTALLY old-school about taking notes, scribbling furiously and illegibly (at least to others’ eyes) in narrow reporter’s notebooks when doing interviews or on the road. Once I’m back at my laptop, I need utter silence to write. No TV, no background music. While it drives me nuts, I’m a procrastinating writer—but I feel I do my best work with deadline pressure staring me in the face. Tortured or not, I absolutely love the work.

Whether I’m on staff as a reporter, freelancing Travel stories for publications such as CNN.com, or working full-time in Corporate Communications, I always define myself first and foremost as a WRITER and a storyteller. You know when people ask whether you’d keep working even if you won the lottery? THIS is the work I’d do for free, even if I didn’t get paid (and very often, I don’t!). Words help me make sense of the world—and hopefully, those I write help others do the same.

Here, please meet my fellow “Blog Hop” writers!

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a freelance journalist, blogger and arts critic specializing in travel and lifestyle topics. She’s the author of Exploring Chicago Blues: Inside The Scene, Past and Present (History Press),  a guidebook to Chicago blues history and landmarks. Her other credits include Woman’s Day, Hemispheres, MSN, Salon, Brides, Yoga Journal, Travel + Escape, Go Magazine, Relish, Time Out Chicago, Mojo, Allmusic.com, Get Lost, Rough Guide to Women Travel, and the Chicago Sun-Times, among other publications. She writes a monthly blues column for the Illinois Entertainer, travel blogs for various publications and teaches journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She’s based in Chicago, from which she manages to escape during the Windy City’s six official winter months. You can read more of her work on her website and on her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl.

Kelly E. Carter

Kelly E. Carter is a New York Times-bestselling author and founder of TheJetSetPets.com, the luxury travel source for pampered pets on the go. Her latest book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, was released in spring 2014 and marks National Geographic’s first dog travel guide book. Carter and her posh pooch Lucy, a longhair Chihuahua, have globetrotted together for 13 years, including a two-year stint in Italy. A popular speaker at travel conferences, Carter is also the pet travel expert for AOL’s pet site PawNation and Elite Traveler, where she’s a Contributing Editor. She has written for numerous publications and websites, including on staff for People and USA Today and as a freelancer for Departures, Men’s Fitness, Black Enterprise, Los Angeles Times, History Channel MagazineSouth China Morning Post in Hong Kong, TownandCountryTravelMag.com and CigarAficionado.com. With Venus Williams, Carter co-authored the New York Times best-selling book Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession

Terra Robinson

Terra Robinson is an American Black Chick in Europe. She chronicles her time living, working and travelling in Europe through the filters of being an American, a woman and black. One part travel, one part expat and one part personal blog, American Black Chick in Europe serves up tidbits and information about life in Europe straight up with no chasers. Having lived in Europe since 2008, with stints in England, France, Belgium, and currently Denmark, this American Black Chick in Europe seeks to demystify what she affectionately refers to as these crazy Europeans.

Kate Silver

Kate Silver has been writing professionally for 15 years, seven of which have been full-time freelance. She got her start writing news and features as a staff writer in Las Vegas in 1999.  Along the way, she’s stalked celebrities for People Magazine, co-authored guidebooks on Las Vegas, and investigated off-the-beaten path stories (like one about the so-called “Wedding Chapel Wars”) for national outlets. In 2007, she quit her job as associate editor with Las Vegas Life magazine and took the freelance plunge, eventually moving to Chicago to live closer to family. Today, she juggles a healthy mix of editorial and corporate work, specializing in travel, food, wellness and feature stories. Her work appears in Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Crain’s, and she also writes and blogs for a number of businesses and non-profits, including Chevrolet, General Motors, American Heart Association, Behr Paint and others. Silver also works on a number of ghostwriting projects, large and small, and is wrapping up her second ghostwritten book. In addition, she recently completed the 2015 Frommer’s Easy Guide to Chicago, to be published in the fall. She is a member of Association of Women Journalists (AWJ) and the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and serves on the planning committee for ASJA’s Content Connections, an annual writer’s conference that will be held in Chicago Nov. 13-14. Silver also blogs and maintains a website.

2 Comments June 26, 2014

Want to travel under the Tuscan sun? SimpleItaly’s ‘Celebration of the Senses’ April tour is for you

Ah, memories! Here I am, standing under the Tuscan sun during my living-in-Florence days.

Ah, memories! Here I am, standing under the Tuscan sun during my living-in-Florence days in 2004.

As you UrbanTravelGirl readers know, Italy is near and dear to my heart. It’s the first place I lived abroad, and I’ll always look back fondly on the seven months I spent in romantic Renaissance Florence. I not only got to write incredible freelance Food and Travel stories during this time, but those assignments sometimes took me into the breathtakingly beautiful countryside of Tuscany—the region in which Florence sits. Gorgeous films like “Under the Tuscan Sun” extol the sensual pleasures of Italian life amidst rolling hills and stately cypress trees. No wonder Tuscany is so popular with travelers from around the world … who wouldn’t consider this a trip of a lifetime?

I know it’s Christmas Eve, and whatever gifts you’re planning to give have already been purchased. But what if, just for argument’s sake, you were blessed to be able to give someone (or even better, yourself) the gift of Tuscany this holiday season? And I have one specific gift in mind.

Want to experience the Tuscan sun yourself? From April 5-12, 2014, SimpleItaly's "Celebration of the Senses" tour will call this luxury villa near Siena its home base.

Want to experience the Tuscan sun yourself? From April 5-12, 2014, SimpleItaly’s “Celebration of the Senses” tour will call this luxury villa near Siena its home base.

As I just wrote in a post for my Today’s Chicago Woman Travel blog, my fellow Italophiles and former Florence, Italy, residents Sharon and Walter Sanders are leading a fully escorted eight-day tour of Tuscany through the lifestyle company they call SimpleItaly: Celebrating Your Inner Italian. From April 5-12, 2014, guests who sign up for “SimpleItaly Adventure in Tuscany Tour: A Celebration of the Senses” will call Villa Pipistrelli, a luxurious 17th century villa near Siena that’s a converted farmhouse, their home.

Walter and Sharon Sanders are diehard Italophiles who formerly lived in Florence -- and they'll be your engaging hosts for SimpleItaly's eight-day tour in April 2014.

Walter and Sharon Sanders are diehard Italophiles who formerly lived (and actually got married!) in Florence — and they’ll be your engaging hosts for SimpleItaly’s eight-day tour in April 2014.

The trip’s incredible itinerary comes courtesy of Sharon and Walter, Americans who were fortunate enough to marry in the historic Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. Like me, Sharon MUST have been Italian in a past life. My former editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, she’s a celebrated food writer, editor and author whose Cooking Up an Italian Life: Simple Pleasures of Italy in Recipes and Stories is a must-have for anyone who dreams, thinks and wants to cook Italian. (An aside: a few years back, Sharon invited me to tap into my “inner Italian” and share my thoughts on her SimpleItaly website. Read this, and you’ll see why I—and millions of others—have fallen completely under Italy’s spell.)

Imagine taking advantage of these incredible activities during SimpleItaly’s springtime in Tuscany tour:

  • 7 nights accommodation at Villa Pipistrelli
  • Transfers to and from the Florence Airport
  • Ground transportation to all scheduled activities
  • All breakfasts; seven dinners and fine lunches with wine (certamente … you’ll be in Italy!)
  • Casual learning sessions with English-speaking local artisans, guest experts and authors
  • Olive oil samplings and wine tastings
  • Pecorino cheese-making demo and tasting
  • Foraging in the local woods and tasting edible wild greens
  • Pasta- and pizza-making classes
  • Sessions with Tuscany-based authors Jennifer Criswell of At Least You’re in Tuscany and Dario Castagno of Too Much Tuscan Wine (as if there’s such a thing!)
  • Tour of UNESCO World Heritage city of Siena—including its lively outdoor market
  • Visit to Arezzo Antiques Fair
  • Free time to explore the gorgeous Tuscan countryside
Guests on SimpleItaly's "Celebration of the Senses" tour will learn to cook the Tuscan way in this gorgeous Villa Pippistrelli kitchen during a group cooking lesson.

Guests on SimpleItaly’s “Celebration of the Senses” tour will learn to cook the Tuscan way in this gorgeous Villa Pipistrelli kitchen during a group cooking lesson.

Many gifts we’ll give and receive this holiday season are the kind we’ll gush over and then stash in a closet. But investing in travel—either for those you love or yourself—will pay dividends your whole life long. This SimpleItaly trip is $2,495 per person based on double occupancy (not including airfare). Experiencing bella Italia the way the locals do, along with like-minded tour guides and travelers, is quite simply priceless. Less than a handful of spaces are left, so you’ll need to move fast.

If you’re one of those who’s promised to think and live more globally in 2014, what better way to start?

Buon Natale e Buon Anno, my fellow travelers!

Leave a Comment December 24, 2013

Let friends—and friends-of-friends—hook you up with other pals on your next overseas trip

¡Hola, salut et ciao, UrbanTravelGirls!!! Lo siento, je suis desolé, et mi dispiace–in short, my apologies for having gone off the grid for awhile. My freelance consulting and writing has kept me très busy the past several months, but I promise that I’m back, ready to inspire my chicas to experience the world and let it experience THEM!!

Since I last wrote, I’ve had incredible experiences in Panama City, Panama, and am counting on loads more of overseas trips in the near future. (More on that later!) But I’ve also been living vicariously through the adventures some of YOU ladies have been having this summer… which leads me to this post. None of us is an island—and neither should we be, even when we love hitting the road solo (as you know I do). It’s one thing to visit a city or country on your own, but quite refreshing to see it through the eyes of those who live there. And even if you don’t happen to know anyone in Amsterdam or Hong Kong or Cape Town, chances are someone that you know DOES. That’s why it’s a great idea to find out in advance if folks you know have any local connections in the place you’re heading….

Continue 6 Comments October 16, 2011

Gorgeous ‘Cairo Time’ makes me want to pack my bags for Egypt

After spending almost NO time at the cinema this summer, I’m on another film kick. Forget “Eat Pray Love” as the so-called thoughtful “chick flick” of the season. For me, the UrbanTravelGirl must-see movie is “Cairo Time,” an absolutely breathtaking film that places the ancient-yet-modern and chaotic Egyptian city of Cairo in a starring role.

I recently raved about “Cairo Time” in “TCW Travel Connection,” the blog I write for the monthly Today’s Chicago Woman magazine. (I hope you’ll check it out!) But beyond making me think long and hard about the movie’s central premise—that “sometimes you need to forget the rules and follow your heart”—and inspiring me to see it twice, this travelogue of a film has me SERIOUSLY thinking about booking a trip to Cairo….

Continue 17 Comments September 8, 2010

Let travel take you outside your comfort zone

I promise I’m going to write about “Black Chicas and Hair, Part Deux,” but I thought a post I included on my other travel blog, “TCW Travel Connection” (http://bit.ly/6KTkZV) for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine (http://www.tcwmag.com) would make a good introduction to 2010. For the past couple days, I’ve been reflecting and ruminating on the year that was (and thankfully is now OVER) and the year I’m hoping to have. And one thing I’ve promised myself is that I’ll consciously take risks. That I’ll make decisions that are scary but that offer huge long-term potential. And that I’ll remember this one life is NOT a dress rehearsal, and that none of us get a “do-over.”

Maybe part of it has to do with arriving in my 40s (God willing, I’ll turn 41 in a few days) and the realization that life is short. And that I don’t want to look back as an old woman with a list of “woulda-coulda-shouldas.” Hopefully you don’t want to do that, either.

So take a look at this post on letting travel take you outside your “comfort zone,” whatever that is for you. Here’s wishing you a year full of great trips and adventures – I’m looking forward to sharing them with you. And Happy New Year!

Continue 3 Comments January 1, 2010

Want to travel the ‘world’ without leaving the United States? Visit Las Vegas

Times are tough, and even us diehard globetrotters are finding ourselves grounded these days. But there ARE ways to travel the world without leaving the borders of the United States. In a recent post for my “TCW Travel Connection” blog, which I write for a great local monthly magazine called Today’s Chicago Woman (http://www.tcwmag.com), I’ve written about “going global” by sampling fare at ethnic cafes and restaurants, checking out foreign films, soaking up the sounds from other lands, etc.

But surprisingly, you can ALSO take a trip around much of the world by visiting Vegas. YES, Las Vegas. Even this most American of cities offers something for the global traveler in you….

Continue 4 Comments November 12, 2009

Nothing like travel—in the United States and abroad—to change a sister’s life

Think back: Have you ever taken a trip that literally changed the trajectory of your life? Or even one that permanently altered the way you think about yourself as an African-American woman–or the world?

Besides UrbanTravelGirl, I also write a blog for Today’s Chicago Woman, a monthly magazine for smart, professional women that’s very well-known to those of us living in the Windy City. In my recent “TCW Travel Connection” post, I write about “Travel as a life-changer,” or the ways in which trips—both here in the United States and abroad—led me to make self-affirming and enriching choices. As I say in the post, “Far from being a ‘luxury,’ travel is often what we need to become more of who we really are.”

I’d love to hear from you: How has travel inspired you to make big or small changes that you know will last a lifetime?

Continue 12 Comments September 5, 2009


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