Laura Fraser is the bestselling author of the travel memoir An Italian Affair, as well as All Over the Map. She has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Sunset, More, Elle, Marie Claire, Gourmet, Salon.com, and many others. She lives in San Francisco and part-time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She speaks Italian and Spanish. She’s also the co-founder and editorial director of Shebooks.net, which publishes short e-books by women.
How did you get started traveling?
My parents took me to San Miguel de Allende for a summer when I was ten, and I became completely fascinated with learning a new language and living in a new place.
How did you get started writing?
I’m one of those people who was always a writer — edited the junior high newspaper, wrote for the city newspaper in high school, edited the Wesleyan Argus. I’ve been a freelance writer since the day I graduated college and have never had a full-time job.
What do you consider your first “break” as a writer?
I was traveling for 9 months on my own after college and spent time on an Israeli kibbutz as a volunteer. I met one of the women there who was a sociologist studying sex roles on the kibbutzim, and she exemplified the problem, because she worked in the dining hall with her PhD. I wrote a story about her and her research and mailed it to the Jerusalem Post and they ran it.
What is your biggest challenge in the research and writing process?
I can more or less do interviews in Spanish and Italian, but I usually tape them and transcribing and translating them is a bitch.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?
Hah—where do you start? The magazines that used to pay me to travel and write long features don’t really exist any more.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
Take care of yourself. I’ve met a lot of people who have an adventurous spirit who do stupid things when they travel. It can be dangerous to get drunk in the wrong circumstances. I’ve had two people try to sexually assault me when I was traveling. In the first instance, knowing some self defense, and knowing how to swim, saved my life.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
I love to get outside my language and my culture and appreciate other ways of being human. I admire the graciousness and generosity of so many of the people I’ve visited in other countries. Traveling just much life so much richer than the daily routine.