This month we are featuring Debbie Stone, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications, ranging from newspapers and magazines to travel-related websites. Additionally, she has served as a travel specialist for the NPR-affiliated, talk radio show, “2 Boomer Babes,” as well as for local T.V. stations in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She also writes a monthly travel column for Luxe Beat Magazine called Put a Pin in it!
Debbie came to travel writing after working in a number of different careers: as a play and dance therapist, an ESL teacher (both in the U.S. and abroad), an airline sales and public relations rep, an adult basic education instructor and a newspaper reporter. It was while she was a journalist living in Seattle that she began dipping my toe in the travel writing waters. Thanks to the encouragement of her editor, she started to pursue travel writing in earnest. That was fifteen plus years ago, and Debbie is happy to say that she continues to be fully engaged in the profession today. It is work that excites and stimulates her and it allows her to explore the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers. Debbie views herself as an avid adventurer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for travel and cross-cultural connections.
How did you discover your love for travel?
My love for travel was ignited early on, when I was just a young girl, by my mother whose passion for adventure proved to be contagious. I was fortunate that my family went on many vacations, as these trips introduced me to a world outside my childhood home in Chicago. Travel opened my mind, extended my awareness and gave me an education I could never have received from books. I sought opportunities to continue traveling when I was in college and in later years, choosing to study, work and volunteer abroad whenever possible. As a parent, I made travel an important part of my kids’ lives, with the goal of passing on my love of adventure, my curiosity and my explorer genes to them.
Are you more passionate about writing or photography?
Writing is my primary passion as I feel I can communicate more effectively in words, plus I have always loved the written word so I naturally gravitated to this form of communication. I do, however, take all of my travel photos for my stories, realizing that sometimes a picture is equally or even more equipped at telling a story.
Describe your writing process.
I carry a small notebook with me when I travel and jot down my impressions, feelings, necessary information, etc. I even use it to sketch certain places and people. When I get home, I go through the information I have gathered, along with a few special mementos I have collected, my notes, photos, etc. and use everything to craft my story. I write while the memories are still fresh, yet I also give myself some time to digest the experiences. I typically design a rough outline of the story, having decided the focus with the audience in mind, and then I get to work. I write in my home office, which is a room decorated with items and photos from my many travels. It sets the stage for my creative process. I usually complete a story within a day or two, as I am disciplined to complete the assignment quickly through my experience as newspaper reporter. Then I wait a day before I look at the article again, with fresh eyes, make the necessary corrections/additions, etc.
When you have the opportunity to choose your travel destination, where do you go?
I choose destinations that appeal to my interests at the time, whether they are cultural, historical, wildlife, adventure, culinary, etc. I also choose places and modes of travel that I think will appeal to my readers, which range from high-powered professionals and active retirees to solo travelers and families with young kids. Lately, I have been trying to pick some far-flung destinations to satisfy my bucket list/dream locales, like Antarctica, India and the Amazon. However, I recently chose to explore a small, relatively unknown place in southeastern Wyoming, as I wanted to write about a destination that I know most people had never heard of, let alone visited. There’s something special about discovering such a place and feeling like you are one of the few writers to capture its beauty.
If you could be anyone else, who would you be?
I would love to be a cultural anthropologist like Margaret Mead, who went to live among people in esoteric parts of the world to try and understand and document their cultures.
What is it about luxury travel that motivates you to write?
I enjoy writing about luxury because it brings me in contact with some of the best properties, finest food/wine offerings and top-of-the-line experiences. It’s an exciting and fascinating world with a high drool-worthy factor that is irresistible in its pull.
What has been one of your favorite experiences while traveling?
I have so many favorites, but one of the standouts has to be trekking through Nepal with Dr. Antonia Neubauer, founder of READ (Rural Education and Development) and founder and president of the cultural tour company, Myths and Mountains. Visiting the many small library community centers that Toni and her nonprofit organization have helped to create within these tiny mountain villages was an incredibly unique and eye-opening experience. It brought home the realization of the importance of such facilities as catalysts for rural development. As we visited these places, the villagers would line up to greet us and spend hours regaling us with stories of how the libraries and centers were helping to make positive changes in their lives and the lives of their children.
Do you have a favorite dish or chef?
Coyote Cafe’s world renowned chef Eric Distefano creates incredibly inspiring, contemporary global cuisine that continues to amaze me each time I eat at this famed Santa Fe restaurant. He is a creative genius and I am in awe of his prowess in the kitchen. Eating at Coyote Cafe is a wonderful sensory experience.
I understand you enjoy hiking, is that how you enjoy your free time?
When I’m not traveling, I love to hike in the mountains around Santa Fe, cross-country ski in the winter, read and discuss books with my book clubs, go to arts events, volunteer as a docent at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and dine with friends at one of the many good restaurants in town.
Where do you see the luxury market going?
The business of luxury continues to change and evolve, as people’s hunger for new and more luxurious experiences grows, along with technological advances. The bar keeps on rising, which forces those in the industry to be on their toes, constantly thinking of how to meet and exceed the expectations of the very wealthy consumer. It’s exciting to see the innovative results that occur in this market.
More and more luxury purchases are being influenced by technology, a trend that shows no end of slowing down in the coming years. I think the industry’s growth will continue to be solid, but I do wonder whether the widening wealth gap might adversely impact luxury consumption in the future. Only time will tell.
If you were stranded on an island, name one person and three items you would bring.
I would bring my husband, Bob Stone, because he is the most resourceful person I know. As for items, I would bring a knife, matches/lighter and a fishing pole, all useful articles that would help me survive. As for non material things, I would be sure to bring optimism, patience and perseverance.
Your hometown is Santa Fe, New Mexico what do you recommend to a new visitor to get a flavor for the area?
If you came to Santa Fe, I would tell you to stroll around the city’s historic and colorful Plaza; visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the International Folk Art Museum or any of the other half dozen museums in town; explore the galleries on Canyon Road; take a hike in the nearby mountains; have a soak and a massage at 10,000 Waves; take in an opera (summer) at the famed Santa Fe Opera House; and catch one of New Mexico’s dramatic sunsets, while having a libation at the Bell Tower Bar of La Fonda Hotel. As for dining, I would recommend Pasqual’s, the Shed or its sister La Choza, the Tune Up Cafe, Dr. Field Goods, Coyote Cafe or Geronimos (for a splurge- worthy dinner), Harry’s Roadhouse….and the list goes on. Make sure to try a green chili cheeseburger and really anything with chili. If you can’t decide whether you want red or green, do as the locals do and order “Christmas,” which means both!
What are three necessities you won’t travel without?
Notebook, camera and wet wipes.
What does Luxe Beat Magazine mean to you?
I have great respect for the magazine, as I feel it continues to be a high quality product that brings the best of luxury travel, food/wine, etc. to readers in a compelling and aesthetically beautiful way. I am proud to be associated with the magazine, and delighted to be given the opportunity to share my personal travel experiences in my monthly column, “Put a Pin in It!”