Mary Charlebois is a freelance travel journalist and photographer. Her home base is Northern California on the wild, remote, and fragile Mendocino Coast. Her travels include domestic and international destinations, with a recent focus on the Pacific NW and California. In August 2018 she spent 30-days exploring England. Mary is a regular contributor to five travel publications, and a features writer for twenty-four print and web publications. You can follow her adventures at MaryGo.
Mary was kind enough to answer our travel questions below.
Mary: I've been a traveler my entire life. My Nomadic mother often handed me the map and asked me to choose the destination and route for one of our many traveling adventures. My mom nicknamed me Mary Go. Additionally, for 17-years, I was an international road-warrior, evangelizing digital publishing in its early days. Travel is in my DNA. I get restless when I stay home for more than a few weeks.
Mary: I love off-the-beaten-path destinations. Places no one knows about. I'm usually a solo traveler. I'm thinking of writing about solo travel with a focus on Baby Boomer solo explorers.
Mary: England for a month in August 2018. I spent time in out-of-the-way places like Herefordshire, Shropshire, and Cornwall. I fell in love with every place and everyone I met. Their hospitality and generosity made me feel at home. I absorbed lots of history and learned how much Americans and Brits have in common today and the past. I was the trip of a lifetime, no doubt.
Mary: Malta is up next on my list. I'm thinking of living out of the country for a year or so. Malta might just be the place. I'll let you know after I visit there.
Mary: Premade address labels for postcards to my friends, family, and to myself. I always send myself postcards from my journeys. They make excellent souvenirs.
Mary: Slow down. Spend quality time in one place, rather than a mad dash to see it all. Get to know some folks that live there. Ask them what to eat, where to sleep, and where to play.
Mary: "Don't rent a car in England, take trains and busses." Of course, I didn't follow the advice. Driving in England was more of a challenge than I expected. I managed the narrow country lanes bordered by hedgerows and stone walls, but my knuckles are permanently white from the experience. When I return to the UK, I'll take the train.
Mary: Speaking the language in a foreign country. If you don't know the language, no worries, get a pocket-sized 'picture point book.' Learn to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in the local dialect. You'll get by just fine.
Mary: Watch out for hidden fees, especially at resorts. I was charged $25 per day for resort fees at an all-inclusive on St Barts. No advance notice was given, it was on my bill when I checked out. To avoid this little deception, ask when you make a reservation and when you check in. Be very clear that you want to know exactly what is included, and what the cost is for things not covered.
Mary: In England, the seafood was terrific, especially cod cooked with lemon and capers. Grassfed Hereford Beef was excellent with wild mushrooms foraged from the woods. I was crazy about mushy peas. They are so much better than they sound. I had a lemon cake with tea I'll never forget. It was made by a local volunteer and served at The Bog; a trecking center in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. My biggest surprise was the quality of English wine, especially the bubbly.
Mary: I think smaller towns and cities are ideal for a solo traveler. You'll stand out and are more likely to get involved with locals that can steer you towards the best of everything in the area. For example, go to Naples, rather than Miami. Go to Santa Barbra rather then Los Angeles. Another benefit - it will cost less.
Mary: Insisting on eating American style food when in another country. It makes me nuts. They are missing one of the best things about travel, trying new food.
Mary: My hometown, Fort Bragg California. Once a logging center, it got a bad rep as rough and tumble. Those days are long over. Today the Mendocino Coast is ideal for unplugging and occupying nature.
Mary: Don't wait, go now, and try a trip on your own. It's amazing what you'll learn about yourself.