Every Wednesday I will be publishing an interview with a budding travel writer. To launch this series I am both honoured and delighted to have had the opportunity to interview the talented Lauren Quinn. This tattooed Californian prodigy has a BA in Creative writing and when not detained at Venezuelan police stations enjoys a good old cup of coffee on her back porch in Oakland.
I suppose my greatest motivation is that I’m insanely passionate about both writing and travelling. It’s the kind of passion where you really can’t imagine a life without it. Becoming a travel writer seems like the most obvious way to build a life, and hopefully a career, around what I love. And who doesn’t want to be successful?
2. What is the biggest learning you have made in your journey so far? Is there any advice you would like to share with others?
To be open, both on the road and at the desk. Travelling, I’ve learned to make myself more open to possibility and serendipity. Writing, I’ve learned to be really open to feedback. Criticism can sting like crazy, but when the initial pain subsides, I usually see that whatever point or issue an editor has raised at least has some truth to it, if not a lot of truth. I’m continuing to learn to detach my ego from my writing, because it gets in the way of my being able to grow and learn and take advice. I try not to get too attached to any one piece, any one publication, any one idea of where my writing should go or when the bus should come or what city I should be in. Of course, I fall short. Often. But when I’m in that place of being open and willing to whatever comes my way, I tend to be a lot more successful. And happy.
The success I’m most excited about is the continual growth of my blog. Getting articles published is fantastic, but my blog is where I can really play around, write what I want to write and be true to my own voice. I’ve discovered the most about what it is I have to say, and what it is I want to write, through blogging. I’ve also gained a lot of confidence, and met some really great fellow writers as well. I love the sense of building a community, making connections with people all over the world that are just as on-fire about travelling and writing as I am.
4. Describe your current location and what has taken you there?
My current location is my hometown, Oakland, California. I’ve lived in Oakland my whole life, and there’s really no other city in the US I’d want to live in (except New York City, but not in winter. Or the summer. Or in any of the apartments that I’d be able to afford.) I consider myself a kind of anomaly, because while I do have this insatiable lust for travelling and experiencing the world, I also have a very deep rootedness in my home town; I’m grounded here. I love that I can go to the farmers market and run into people I’ve known for 10+ years–makes you feel like you belong somewhere.
5. What experiences have brought you the most joy in your life?
Hands down, beyond a doubt, getting sober.
6. What was your day like and what were you most grateful for?
Today? So far, I slept in, went to yoga class, bought some cute shoes to wear to my brother’s wedding next week, ate some tacos, drank a $4 cup of coffee, and spent a lot of quality time with my MacBook. I’m regularly (and not necessarily voluntarily) in the practice of writing gratitude lists (see above answer), but to boil it down, I’d say I’m most grateful for my kick-ass life. And for having a day off. Those are nice.
7. When do you feel that you would be confident in calling yourself a professional travel writer?
When I don’t have to wait tables anymore!
8. What is your greatest ambition?
When it comes to travel writing, I’d love to publish a book. I’ve got a killer idea that I’m far too shy–and superstitious–to discuss, and I’m fairly certain that I’ll at least write it some day. Book publishing is a whole nuther scary question. But when it comes to travelling, I’d love to really be able to sink in to a place, stay in one spot for several months (or years), settle in to the groove of life there. As of yet, I haven’t had the time, money or opportunity. But I’m practicing positive visualization. And accepting donations.
9. Where does your passion for travel come from?
That is a fantastic question. I don’t really know where any passions come from, let alone my love of travel. It wasn’t something I was raised with, I didn’t grow up travelling, so it’s really something I stumbled into and fell in love with on my own. I could point to plenty of aspects of travel I love–being out of my comfort zone, experiencing new places and cultures, eating indiscernible foods, discerning unpronounceable words, seeing how people live both differently and the same all over the world. But really, I can’t explain it anymore than I can explain my passion for writing. It’s just what I do; something drives me from a very deep place inside, a place I’m only vaguely aware of but suspect is at the centre of everything I do, who I am. I’m constantly plotting and saving for my next trip. When I was a kid, I wrote “novels” for fun. Now in my 20s, whenever I get a chunk of change together, I travel. (Or get tattooed.) If I could explain it, I could probably stop it, cut it out and live a sensible, normal life. Which sounds insanely boring. It’s just who I am.
10. What travel writers do you admire?
Really, I love any writer with a strong command of narrative. I read a lot of different genres, majored in Creative Writing, so I admire and am influenced by tons of writers, from Flannery O’Connor to William Carlos Williams to Roberto Bolano. But when it comes to people commonly classified as travel writers, I’m just starting to dive in, to be honest. So far, I’m digging the humour of Bill Bryson, the sensibility of Pico Iyer and the story-telling of Tim Cahill.
I was detained for 4+ hours by the Venezuelan police for fracturing a small child’s fingers. I blame the overly air-conditioned bus that kept me up all night, and the metal bathroom stall doors that didn’t have locks.
12. What is your favourite drink and where would you like to have it?
Moroccan mint tea and made-from-scratch horchata are both pretty bomb. But right now, Blue Bottle Coffee. My back porch is a pretty great place to enjoy a cup. Or my parents’ backyard, with the cat on my lap.
Tune in on Wednesday 25th for the next in the series of new travel writer weekly interviews where I will be catching up with destination food journalist Clare Kleinedler from