Best Places of the World, 2013

Text & Instagram Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo

As you can probably tell by the neglect of this blog over the past few weeks, it has been a very busy month at CollazoProjects headquarters… though, truth be told, we haven’t been at headquarters much at all. With back-to-back travels that have taken us to and through three countries and as many states, and a number of deadlines, including a massive project for Zagat that we’ll be excited to tell you more about soon, we haven’t had any spare time in November to speak of.

Not that we’re complaining.

One of the things that always excites me about coming back home is checking the mailbox to see what’s arrived while we’ve been away. In addition to a small stack of books that I’m reviewing for an assignment and the ubiquitous bills, there was this:

National Geographic Traveler's Best of the World 2013 Issue
National Geographic Traveler’s Best of the World 2013 Issue

We’ve been waiting for a looong time to see my article in National Geographic Traveler’s “Best Places of the World 2013” issue to arrive our mailbox– six months, in fact–so it was exciting and gratifying to finally have it in hand.

Given our focus on Latin America and the number of international trips I’ve taken in the past year, you may be surprised to see that of the 20 near and far-flung places listed as the “best” places to visit in 2013, my pick is Memphis, Tennessee. (And no, Belize, Catalonia, and Mexico, I don’t love you one bit less!). You can read more of the backstory of how and why Memphis was selected on my writing and editing blog, Cuaderno Inedito.

Susan O’Keefe, one of my editors at National Geographic Traveler, said at last week’s excellent Travel Classics West Conference that writing a short article is often perceived as easier than writing a feature, but that is often not the case. I can definitely second that; my contribution to the list of 20 was commissioned for 400 words and I agonized over every one of them. As always, some incredible people and places got left out. Plenty of stories remain to be told (and hey, that’s what this blog is for). I hope you’ll pick up the December-January issue, which should be on newsstands soon, to learn more about why I love Memphis and why I think you might, too. And stick around here for some Memphis outtakes.

Overlooked New York: Cookbooks

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo


“This place could be dangerous,” I thought as I pushed open the wooden door of Joanne Hendricks’ bookstore, located on part of the ground floor of her home at 488 Greenwich Street in Manhattan.

I’d written down the address on a slip of paper and stuck it in my wallet after reading about Hendricks’ shop in Edible Manhattan last year. For weeks, I intended to stop by but something always detoured me: work, family, the holidays. Finally, I set out for Cookbooks, determined to be undeterred this time. And when I opened the door, I knew I wouldn’t leave empty-handed.

I didn’t- I bought a first-edition (!) copy of Vertamae Smart Grosvenor’s Vibration Cooking; or Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, which I’d been searching for a while. But even better was steeping in the space Joanne has created with obvious love and care over the years. The shelves are loaded and sagging with first or special editions of some collectible favorites– Brillat Savarin, The Joy of Cooking, Emily Post’s manners guides, Ferran Adria’s carefully documented life of the now-shuttered El Buli– and all sorts of ephemera– culinary themed postcards and pictures, tea cups, and even a tiny cookstove. In the midst of it all is Joanne herself, who is more than willing to talk about cookbooks and culinary travel with you but who is no gastro-snob. (We talked about my favorite food place, Mexico).

The best way to approach Cookbooks is to browse, with no particular title in mind. You’ll no doubt find something you didn’t even know you were looking for. There aren’t a whole lot of places like it–old, intimate, and real in every sense of the word– left in Manhattan, where, Joanne notes with regret, trendy floor to ceiling glass windowed buildings are replacing brick Federalist-era walk-ups like hers. Supporting it seems important– and, fortunately, fun too.

December Publications & Updates

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo

Street art in Mexico City
Street art in Mexico City

There’s still so much more to be written about what we’ve done and seen and heard in 2011; we’ll likely be working on stories well into 2012.

For now, here’s a quick sampling of some recently published work and other professional updates:

Francisco was one of 50 semi-finalists in Smithsonian’s Aerial America Contest. The photo was taken this summer at Migis Lodge, a resort that’s well-loved by its many repeat visitors, whose families have “summered” at Migis for several generations.

My feature article about Mexico City and writer Daniel Hernandez appears in the December-January issue of the magazine Centro y Sur. Several of my photos also appeared in the article.

My part of the Fodor’s Puerto Rico 2012 guide has been submitted; I’m looking forward to seeing the printed book next year. Though doing the research for the guide always takes a few months off my lifespan, working with my editor there is always a positive experience.

Matador released its first book, an anthology of travel quotes and exceptional travel photographs. It’s called No Foreign Lands and I’m the associate editor. (Hint: It makes a lovely holiday gift. No, I don’t make any money off it, but the photographers do, so show them some love.)

Lots of projects and publications on the horizon- a feature on the First Lady of Belize for MS. Magazine, a couple of book projects, and some collaborations I’m excited about.

What’s it like being a travel writer?

In a new series on Matador Network’s blog, The Travelers Notebook, we take a look at the lives of travel writers. In this first video, travel writer and TV host Robin Esrock tells viewers a bit about his life and career:

Want to learn the craft of travel writing?

Sign up for Matador’s new Travel Writing School and get the skills you need.

Travel Writers’ Resolutions for 2009

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Brayan Collazo Alonso

As a travel writer who has written openly about traveling to Cuba, I receive frequent e-mails from people who would like my advice about doing the same.

Just last week, I was chatting with a friend–another travel writer–an American citizen who is planning on traveling to Cuba. “I was trying to decide… whether to write about it [the trip],” she said. She maintains a popular travel blog with a loyal readership, and the comments of her readers indicate that she clearly exerts a positive influence over their travel decisions.

“Here’s what I think,” I said to her:

“From a philosophical/activism perspective, the more people who write about traveling to Cuba, the better. It proves, for one thing, the importance of going there, seeing things for themselves, and rendering their own judgments and opinions. It also proves that the travel ‘ban’ is ridiculous and that travel is not threatening to anyone.”

Writing about travel, like traveling itself, is a form of diplomacy, of politics, and even, I argue, of patriotism. Travel writing is not an act of objectivity or passivity. It requires the writer’s full engagement, both while traveling and while sitting down and writing.


A few months back, I attended a reading of prose pieces written by travel writers. A writer and editor was asked by a member of the audience if he had traveled to Cuba. The writer shuffled uncomfortably from one foot to the other, his head down, as if trying to decide whether to answer the question. Finally, he looked up and said, “Yes.”

That was it.

“And have you written about it?” the audience member continued. The writer responded something along the lines of he’d never written about the experience–or at least not published anything about it–because he didn’t really want to leave a paper trail of his travels to the forbidden island. He was worried about the consequences.

While I respect his decision, I think there’s something to be said for travel writing that takes people places where they can’t go or where they’re afraid to go. There’s something to be said for writing that’s courageous, that says, “This is what I believe, and this is why,” and that gives places and people without voices a medium for expression.
My friend and colleague, Eva Holland, recently blogged about her 2009 travel and writing resolutions.

“I will give everything I write the same time, care and attention that I would have when I first started out, and every submission felt like life and death.”

It’s a resolution all writers should adopt for 2009.

And I’ll add one more, for all of us:

Write like you believe in your subject. Write through your fear, through your ego, through your anxieties. Write about places like they matter… because they do.