Patricia Schultz is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die. A veteran travel journalist with more than 30 years of experience, she has written for guides such as Frommer’s and Berlitz and periodicals including The Wall Street Journal and Travel Weekly, where she is a contributing editor. Recently chosen as one of the 25 most influential women in travel, and named a Trafalgar Global Brand Ambassador, Patricia has a social media platform that includes over 4 million Facebook followers and executive-produced a Travel Channel television show based on 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Her home base is New York City.
At what point did you realize that a typical 9-5 career was not in store for you?
I’ve led a very unconventional lifestyle straight out of the gate. Every time (and there were many) I heard a friend complain that work (the hours, the structure, the stress, the nightmare boss) was killing their joy was a confirmation to me that I needed to look elsewhere and create a different reality if I was to have a meaningful life. When I look back now I see that a more stable and traditional and perhaps corporate life path (routine-filled days with stagnant creativity and 2-week vacations dangled as the incentive to survive) would have suffocated me — I always understood that and knew intuitively that it was simply not for me. I always went with my gut but it took some time to figure out my plan of action. In the meantime, I kept exploring the world around me, whether within arm’s reach or across the world.
Did you face any challenges as a woman, not only travelling the world alone but also in what is regarded as the highly competitive and at one time male-dominated field of journalism?
If I encountered any challenges early on, I believed it was because I was younger than most and perhaps not considered serious enough. And if there were challenges later on, I felt it was because I wasn’t seen as experienced as my competitors — and set off to change that and get more experience under my belt. Life presents us with challenges every day and in every respect. But I always push the envelope and do what I can and if the door still doesn’t budge, I usually manage to find another one that can be opened far more easily. It’s important to believe there’s always something far more interesting that awaits once you redirect your energies and regroup. Failures and setbacks are part of the game and always make success sweeter.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is interested in embarking on a non-traditional career path?
I quote my (very German) father who told me to always follow my heart, but bring my brain with me. Whatever brings you joy and makes you smile should be at the heart of how and what you envision your career — and therefore your life — to be. Being creative was critical when it came to finances, and I found that I became a pro at never saying no to any work offer or suggestion. I understood early on that everything I did, every place I visited and every person I met was all part of the journey. It remains my mantra today.
“Whatever brings you joy and makes you smile should be at the heart of how and what you envision your career — and therefore your life — to be.”
Creating a life you want will absorb most of your waking hours, so you need to feel as much satisfaction as you do exhaustion at the end of every day. Seven-day weeks and insane deadlines are pretty much a given — I never, ever expected it would be easy to create this unconventional and profoundly rewarding lifestyle of mine, so the disappointments were always manageable and helped stoke my conviction to keep moving forward.
If you want anything enough in life, I believe we all have the means to make it happen. I avoided the naysayers and surrounded myself with people who supported me and who shared my convictions and curiosity about the world. I was blessed with parents who understood that everyone follows a very different path and to expect setbacks. All those twists and turns? They help create all the excitement. The finish line we all strive for is not always as clearly within sight as promised in the movies — but oh, what a journey.
One of your best-selling books is called 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Is there someplace you have yet to see?
There are countless places I haven’t yet seen! And the more I travel the more my Bucket List grows in length. Wanting to revisit all the places I have come to love always creates complications — I am torn between wanting to return to a place that I know to be beautiful and special, but feeling more inclined to see places unknown and intriguing. My Short List of places I haven’t yet visited includes New Zealand and Laos, and way too many others to list here. The world is brimming with wonders both grand and unsung and I am aware that there are no guarantees. So Carpe Diem! There is no time like right now!