Last updated on August 4th, 2021
Featured Image: Karen Gershowitz holding a copy of her book
Note: This series profiles of women authors who have written travel memoirs. Industy research shows that female authors, particularly women of colour, LGBTQIAP+ individuals, and people with disabilities are underrepresented in the literary world. The intent of this new feature is simple: to provide a place where women’s wisdom can be shared with other women. This is not an advertising feature – we select our authors carefully, through a series of interviews, to ensure our philosophies on travel are aligned with JourneyWoman’s ethos to seek, learn and teach. If you have a book you’d like featured please write email@example.com to be considered. To see our recommended books please visit our Book Club page.
How Travel Can Change a Life
by Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
You can’t help but be entranced by Karen Gershowitz’s stories of her travels around the globe. She describes herself as a travel addict, admitting that “travel is an addiction, one for which I don’t want treatment… an out-of-the-way destination, especially one I know little about, is my personal drug of choice.”
Since leaving for Europe alone at age 17, she has traveled to more than 90 countries. Her book, Travel Mania, is a record of her lifelong achievements as a solo traveller to places like Indonesia, which captured her heart, and honest accounts of her experiences in places like Brazil, which she found intimidating, even as a New Yorker.
Karen’s love of travel is tempered with an acknowledgment that travel isn’t just about the number of places you visit, it’s about developing a deep understanding of the culture and people, driven by the virtue of curiosity. For her, meeting the local people delivers the real goods – bringing connection and learning, regardless of where she lands. She gives full credit for her curiosity to both her mother and her grandmother, who encouraged her to keep journals on family trips and write down her observations – not just the places she saw, or where she stayed, but how they made her feel.
More than anything else, this book explores how travel can change a life, teaching women about courage, independence and risk-taking. Karen’s aspiration is that Travel Mania will inspire armchair travelers to become explorers and embolden everyone to be more courageous. Her memoir is truly a labour of love, and at 368 pages in my version, you can choose from small snippets over coffee or settle into your cosy reading chair to journey with her around the world, from Abu Dhabi to Morocco and back again.
Watch our video interview for her advice for first-time solo travellers to take the first step, memories of one of her most meaningful trips and her thoughts on the future of travel for women. “If I can get five women to travel solo, I’ll be happy,” she says. I couldn’t agree more!
Karen’s advice for writers
“Write or film short pieces to start, develop your voice and style. Join a writer’s group – mine has been invaluable in providing useful critiques and lots of encouragement.”
Karen’s Top Tip for Solo Travellers
“My best advice is: don’t stay at big international hotels – try for places where the locals stay. If you can find B&Bs or a small local hotel stay there or rent an apartment. Eat where the locals eat. And just wander—don’t stick to the tourist sites. Get on a local bus and go to the end of the line, then walk around the neighborhood.”
Guest Writer Karen Gershowitz shares her story of traveling with chronic pain to Iceland, and shows us how it might slow you down, but doesn’t have to permanently ground you.
My Q&A with Karen
Tell us about the storyline. Is there any special significance to the title?
Once I got a taste of traveling it became a near compulsion for me. Exploring a new place, no matter where in the world, is an adrenaline-producing rush for me. I have never been able to resist the pull of another journey. Travel Mania takes readers along on my journeys around the globe and through my personal growth.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? How long did it take?
My mother started me writing travel journals when I was very young. I’ve been writing about my travels since then. So, you could say I’ve been writing this book since I was age 7. I started seriously writing and compiling the stories about 10 years ago.
This book was originally nearly twice as long, I needed to significantly pare it down. The stories I ultimately chose to include fit into one of these categories: learning to travel, my changing view of the world, and ways in which travel changed me.
In writing this book, what did you learn about yourself that surprised you?
I never thought about myself as being especially brave. But in retrospect, it is clear that I exhibited enormous bravery and strength on many occasions. I also realized that because I’ve traveled extensively both for business and pleasure, how different those experiences are and how much I’ve learned from each.
What wisdom do you want to share with other women? What’s your overarching message?
I am an ordinary person. Through travel, I’ve learned courage and risk-taking and succeeded at things I didn’t know I could do. I hope that Travel Mania conveys the profound impact travel can have and the joy that can be found in exploring the world. The best outcome of people reading my book is that the stories give them the courage to set off on their own adventures.
What’s your favorite line or passage in the book and why?
“I left for Indonesia a happily single woman. After two weeks, I had acquired a husband and two children.” There’s a great story behind this (I didn’t actually get married) and a wonderful tip for solo female travelers
What inspirational book – old or new – would you recommend to other women that will inspire them to travel and explore new places. What did you learn from it?
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson’s travel books. I am also smitten with Dervla Murphy’s many travel adventures. She was far more adventurous than me, but I always felt as though I was traveling along side of her.
What is your favorite destination and why?
This is an impossible question to answer. When I’m traveling, I am enamored with whatever scene is in front of my nose. Spectacular beauty, astonishing accomplishments, great food and warm, generous people intermixed with outrageous schlock all captivate me.
About the JourneyWoman Book Club
Have you written a book you’d like to see profiled on JourneyWoman? Sharing our travel stories is an important part of the cycle of travel, where we seek, learn and teach. It is through our stories that we share our wisdom with other women.
There is no charge to be profiled, but it is at our discretion. Our overarching objective is to support women storytellers and help our voices be heard.
LOVE BOOKS? JOIN THE JOURNEYWOMAN BOOK CLUB!
Every month we recommend a different book that takes you on a new adventure. Book club meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month at 8 pm EST.
Learn more here.