There might have been some crazy thick fog rolling into the River Valley area close to my home early this week, but there was no way I was going to let it keep me from attending the 40th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism — and its keynote speaker (and my old time crush!) Andrew McCarthy.
And I’m pleased to report that driving through the soupy air to the Rogers Convention Center was definitely worth it. I’ll write more tomorrow about some of the great places and fun things in Arkansas I need to check out soon, but today it’s all about Mr. McCarthy.
The “Pretty in Pink” star turned travel writer shared stories from his traveling adventures and thoughts about the overall writing process. In fact, here are the top 3 travel tips I learned from his talks:
1) The #1 thing that resonated most with me was his recommendation to really make sure to enjoy what’s happening in the moment. I tend to have an awful lot of fun on my travels, but my thoughts are also usually running non-stop through a “don’t forget to look at this, or report that, or talk to that person” cycle. This tip is a great reminder to try and take at least a little time to shut down the mind and just BE.
I have gotten a little better over the years at not letting my search for the perfect travel photo get in the way of experiencing an event. Sometimes it’s important to just put away the camera and give yourself over to the doing part. And then take a bunch of pictures afterwards!
2) Talk to the locals. They’re often the best sources for their city’s hidden jewels when it comes to attractions, eateries, and even under-the-radar stories. My out-of-state friends figured this out when I used to live in Orlando. They perceived (correctly!) that by living there I would know the best routes to avoid tourist-clogged streets, ways to circumvent long lines, cost-effective restaurants not that far off the beaten path, and the best places to view theme park parades.
Now I need to get better at doing this myself. It’s so easy to just talk with traveling companions, tour guides, and other travelers. But it can be even more rewarding to talk with and ask questions of service personnel and just everyday people out on the street or in restaurants. That’s how I learned about the Underground Barcelona tour. The what?? Yep, I’ll be writing about that not-so-well-known gem very soon!
3) Artisans make great stories. McCarthy admits to basically writing the same story (or at least the same idea) for several publications, centering on a quest. This includes searching for the best banana bread in Maui, the best brown soda bread in Ireland, and the “perfect prosciutto” in Italy. Although he DOESN’T suggest just following this formula, he did recommend visiting a town’s artists or craftsmen and listening to their stories.
I have to say, there’s a special place in my heart for the beautiful vase I bought after watching a glass-blower make it during one of my journeys and I’m still kicking myself for not buying a tiny painting I watched a woman create in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Those kinds of souvenirs most make me smile once I’m home.
Overall, listening to the talk was fun and a good reminder to make the most of any journey. Oh, and I even managed to get a picture with him! (Although I had to chase him down after his handler said he needed to leave to catch his plane. I may have scared him a little, but at least I made the most of the situation!)