Patricia Schultz has suffered from wanderlust ever since she meandered away from the family beach blanket at age 4. She put her instincts to use in the 1980s by writing for guidebooks such as Frommer's, Access, and Berlitz. Eight years ago she began working on the book she could never find: a "life list" of museums, sacred sites, places of natural beauty, and man-made wonders. Schultz hasn't visited every place in her 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Workman), but she estimates she has been to 80%. BusinessWeek Copy Editor Monica Gagnier caught up with her in Beacon, N.Y., between trips.
How did you choose the sights?
I wanted to feature timeless icons -- the Grand Canyons and Taj Mahals and Great Walls -- and offset them with the humble and little-known. How else could I explain throwing in the Superdawg retro drive-in diner in Chicago or the Maine Lobster Festival with Pompeii and Botswana's Okavango Delta, whose unique ecosystem promises unmatched wildlife viewing?
What sights should be seen sooner rather than later?
Countries new to tourism: Vietnam, Croatia, Bhutan, and Mongolia. You want to get there before the Golden Arches arrive. Also think about China's Three Gorges on the Yangtze, which, upon the completion of the dam of the same name in 2009, will be nearly submerged.
What is your favorite place?
Italy, for me, is one big open-air museum. And there's no such thing as a bad meal. The statistics say it all: It is one of the most revisited countries in the world.
Where do you like to stay?
I'm a pushover for white-glove hotels that exude history and where the staff seems to be clairvoyant -- the Oriental Bangkok, the Connaught in London, the Hassler in Rome, the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor in Cambodia. If you can't afford to stay there, at least go for tea.
What's the best time to travel?
I am a big fan of traveling off-season, and not for the lower rates alone. If you're visiting cities, off-season means no lines, locals who are more relaxed and welcoming, and the sensation that you're the only interloper in town. I can think of no more magical experience than Venice in January when it's wrapped in mist. Can't wait till then? It's winter now in Buenos Aires, and the cultural season is in full swing.
What places on your list are free to see -- other than the cost of getting there?
For the price of a tank of gas, you can drive through some of the world's most breathtaking scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail, the Great Ocean Road in southern Australia, or Ireland's Ring of Kerry. I recently visited the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C., for research on my next book, which focuses exclusively on the U.S. and Canada. Spoleto's "fringe" program has lots of free music, from rafter-raising gospel to under-the-stars reggae parties. The same goes for Montreal's fantastic Jazz Festival or the Chicago Blues Festival.
What's your next trip?
I'm going to Gettysburg over the July 4 weekend for the reenactment of the Civil War battle. It's a mighty dose of patriotism. I've been wanting to do this since I was 12 years old. I can't wait.