Occupation: Novelist and director of a high school writing center.
Favorite destinations: Krakow, Poland, and Alassio, Italy.
Dying to visit: Taiwan. My husband is very "American” in looks and habits, though he spent a year and a half living in Taiwan in his twenties. I just want to hear Chinese come out of his mouth and watch him and his picky palate navigate the cuisine.
Bizarre travel rituals: It's not really bizarre, but my packing consists of starting a pile on a chair about a week before I leave. Every time I think of something, I throw it on the pile. By the night before, all I have to do is put it in the case, so it only takes a few minutes.
In-flight relaxation regime: I always say the same prayers as we're taxi-ing to take off, then read or write or nap. I love the limbo of a flight, when you're completely unreachable and have no obligations.
Always in carry-on: Earplugs and a sleep mask.
Concierge or DIY? DIY.
See it all or take it easy? Ideally, I like to see one thing a day and spend the rest of the time with friends or walking around or sitting in cafes.
Drive or be driven? Drive. Though I've been a little hesitant since being pulled out of my rental car at gunpoint by the Polish police. Long story.
Travel hero: My friend Lisa. Right now she's on a road trip in Jordan. By herself. Though not for long I'm sure. She makes friends wherever she goes and fits in well without denying her American-ness or taking ridiculous risks.
Weirdest thing seen on travels: Possibly when someone pulled out a gun on the Moscow metro and started threatening another passenger. Half the people looked the other way. The other half started laughing. I got off at the next stop shaking my head.
Best hotel amenity: Cleanliness. Unless there's a resident cat. Then I'll take the cat over cleanliness.
I dream about my meal at Pasta e Basta in Alassio, Italy. I had a deal with the brothers who ran the place. I would call Morrie Mages Sports in New York for them and order the running shoes they couldn't get in Italy in exchange for all the gnocchi with gorgonzola I could eat. I wish I could learn to make even a passable version of it at home. I've tried, but no luck.
Everywhere I go, I check out the student cafes. They're usually made for loitering, and I love to sit and write and people-watch.
When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by walking, walking, and more walking.
I always bring home either art or practical things. That way when I'm brushing my cat with the brush I bought at a pet store in Poland or using the cheese grater from Italy, I remember the time I spent there, like a little surprise in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day at home.
If I never return to Moscow, it'll be too soon because I don't understand the general mentality I found there: If you don't lie, cheat, or game the system, you're a sucker.
I travel for the chance to see people and places change over the years. I love going back to the same places over and over.