Rose Palmer is an award winning travel writer and photographer who shares her stories on her website Quiltripping.com — Life is a Patchwork of Experiences.
After a diverse 25 year career as a PhD chemist, Rose took early retirement and now uses her time to explore the world and her creativity. Travel, photography and quilting have been her lasting passions and provide the framework for continuing learning experiences. Rose loves learning about and sharing the unique cultural and scenic aspects of the places she visits. She is always on the lookout for unique experiences and likes to focus her traveling lens on history, art, architecture, nature and soft adventures. She likes to write stories that would interest the educated and adventurous age 50+ creative traveler like her and illustrates them with captivating photography. She also uses her travels and photography to design quilts inspired by her travel locations. She shares her stories as she explores the world in search of travel adventures, quilting activities and beautiful photos to help inspire your next life experience.
Rose was kind enough to answer our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Rose: I can’t recall ever not having a desire to travel. You could say that my first trip was a one-way ticket at the age of nine when my parents and I emigrated form Romania to the US — maybe it was that experience that sparked my adventurous spirit.
While I did not travel much as a child, once I was married and with a family of my own, we took a vacation to different National Parks each summer. When I became an empty nester, I had more time (and resources) to travel, and since taking early retirement a few years ago, I have been fortunate to be able to extensively indulge in my travel passion/obsession even more.
I love the intellectual challenge that traveling to a new location gives me. I also love that when I travel, it’s all about the here and now as I focus completely on experiencing the destination. I find that the more I travel, the more I want to see and experience. As I cross off one or two items off my travel wish list, I inevitably add a handful more as I become more familiar with a destination, so my list keeps getting longer rather than shorter.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Rose: Yes — and no. My site is called Quiltripping. Life is a patchwork of experiences. I share stories about travel and quilting, and when possible, the intersection of the two, but not exclusively. I love to try new experiences, especially ones that take me outside my comfort zone or ones that incorporate a creative element.
This past summer, I flew in a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara in Kenya even though I am extremely afraid of heights. I absolutely loved the experience and discovered that it did not bother me. I am still afraid of heights, but for some reason, not in a hot air balloon (who says life has to be logical all the time).
I often travel solo; I take vacations with my husband; I’ve done girlfriend trips; and I’ve gone on mother-daughter trips with both my mother and my daughter. I am looking forward to doing intergenerational trips now that I have a grandson. If it involves seeing a new destination or trying a new experience, I am in.
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Rose: What a difficult question. There are so many places I’ve been to that I loved and want to experience again and again — London, Paris, Rome, Kyoto, Vienna, Istanbul, Jordan, Alaska, the American Southwest — the list is long.
But right now, the top of my list has to be this past summer’s safari in Kenya and Tanzania. Seeing these grand animals in their natural habitat was a truly unforgettable experience: wildebeest coming together as far as the eye can see on their great migration in the Serengeti; a pack of lions trying to hunt; a mother hyena patiently letting her cubs climb all over her; a giraffe bending awkwardly to get a drink of water because her legs were so long; a multigenerational family of elephants interacting with each other in much the same way as a human family does; a stinky pond full of hippos; seeing three leopards in one day; having a cheetah climb onto the back of our vehicle.
There were so many amazing wildlife moments on that trip that are etched in my memory. Seeing these animals in a zoo or in a documentary did not prepare me for the personal connection I felt as they were only a few feet away from me. It’s an experience that I think everyone should try to do once in their life if they can manage it.
TA: What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit?
Rose: Another difficult question since there are so many wonderful places that I have not been to yet. I would have to say that the top of my list right now is Antartica. There was a time when I considered working there in my technical professional capacity, but now I could no longer handle the cold for such a long period of time. I do want to see it and photograph it before it melts even more. However, I want to be sure to visit it in an environmentally appropriate way where my visit leaves the least impact on the fragile landscape.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Rose: For me, photography and travel go hand in hand, so I always take a good camera — and a back up camera. I’ve been doing photography since my twenties, so in my earlier travel days, it was a 35mm film camera. Those photos went into family albums and scrapbooks which have become a history of our family adventures that even now my adult children like to look at. Today, I take a DSLR with a multipurpose zoom lens.
On our trip to Rome a few years ago, my camera fell and broke midway through the trip, so now I also pack a back up camera body and lens. I can replace most everything that I take when I travel, but it’s hard for me to replace the images I take with my DSLR, even with the current cell phone technology. You could say that I still create scrapbooks that tell the stories of my travels, but now I do it on my website and share it with the world.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Rose: Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and try new experiences. The more I travel to unique destinations, the more I see how similar we are as a human race. History, culture, geography, skin color, religion, politics — all these things appear to make us different on the surface. But on the human level, I have found many more similarities than differences, and in general, I have experienced the kindness of strangers much more often than intolerance or animosity. Drinking tea under a tent with a nomadic Berber family in the Sahara or being invited into the mud brick home of a Maasai warrior have been my most culturally extreme experiences and both experiences have taught me much.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Rose: In general, I enjoy reading story-oriented blogs and sites with strong photography. The two sites that inspired me to try my hand at travel blogging are “Travel Babbo” and “Travel Past 50”. I have learned a lot about the mechanics of travel blogging from the Facebook group “We Travel We Blog” and I like the supportive camaraderie I experience in the “Boomer Travel Bloggers” Facebook group. I have also found it helpful to belong to the North America Travel Journalists Association which is another group that has been very inclusive and supportive on both a professional and personal level.
TA: Where was the most unusual place you’ve ever stayed?
Rose: I’ve had the opportunity to sleep in luxury tents in the desert on two different occasions. The first time was in a Bedouin style tent in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. Most recently, I had a glamping experience in the Sahara desert in Morocco. Both of these were magical experiences that combined the luxury of a high-end hotel room with the peace and solitude that comes from being in the middle of nowhere.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Rose: Pack less than you think you need. I try to travel with a carry-on bag and a back pack as often as I can. I also like to take a couple of inflatable bottle protectors to bring back a bottle or two of local wine (in which case, I then check the bag on the way home). For long flights, I have a down pillow that rolls up tightly so it is not much bigger than a regular travel pillow, but is much more comfortable. I also love my Bose noise reducing ear buds — they make listening to audio books and movies so much more pleasant.
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve ever been given?
Rose: Pack less — no one ever comes back from a trip wishing they had packed more.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Rose: I think people worry too much about the safety of a destination. The media focuses so much time on reporting the bad things that happen that I think it’s too easy to let that define the destination. Common sense always applies and if it doesn’t feel right, then I don’t follow through whether I am in Chicago, London or Marrakesh. I also learn and read as much about a destination prior to going as I can. That way I am armed with information and know what to expect.
TA: What’s a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Rose: The vendors in the bazaars in Dubai try very hard to get your attention. More than once, I had one of them drape a scarf over my shoulder to get me to stop so that they could try and haggle a sale. I would just keep walking, and then they quickly followed me and just as quickly and with a lot of frustration, removed the scarf. I found the whole encounter quite humorous.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Rose: For me it would have to be Turkey. I especially loved all the various meze dishes (little appetizers) and of course, the different types of baklava.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Rose: For our 30th wedding anniversary, my husband and I started our trip in the most romantic city in the world, Venice. We rented an apartment which allowed us to feel like locals and we spent a week exploring the nooks and crannies of this unique city as well as the nearby locales of Murano, Burano, Padua and Verona. We then took the Orient Express train from Venice to London which was the highlight of our trip and was the ultimate romantic luxury train experience. For two days, as the train passed through the beautiful European countryside, we got a taste of what it had been like to travel during the golden age of train travel with exquisite service and delicious gourmet meals.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you’ve ever visited?
Rose: Affordable is a relative term and means different things to different people. Istanbul, Turkey is one of my favorite cities and I think can be visited relatively inexpensively. The city is especially beautiful to visit at the end of March when the many spring bulbs are blooming all over the city. I found very affordable and nice accommodations within a block or two of the main sights in the Sultanahmet district and the majority of the historic sights were within walking distance of the hotel. Most important, I found the Turkish people to be very friendly and extremely welcoming.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Rose: I’ve traveled solo to a variety of destinations, from big cities to National Parks. I think it’s possible to travel solo anywhere, but from a logistics and cost perspective, I find it easiest in the larger cities that have very good public transportation like London, Paris and Tokyo. It’s a lot less expensive when I am traveling alone and I can rely on public transportation to get from the airport to my hotel and from my hotel to the various sights.
TA: Have you ever taken a class while visiting a foreign city? If so, can you tell us a bit about the experience? And would you recommend people take that class?
Rose: I actually look for classes that would provide a unique and interesting experience in the locations where I travel. In Kyoto, I took a class on shibori fabric dying at the Kyoto Shibori Museum. I learned all about this classic tie-dying technique that has been practiced in Japan for centuries, and I had the opportunity to try my hand at it by dying a silk scarf.
In Istanbul, I took a class on Turkish paper marbling and again, learned about a centuries-old craft. This time I left with some beautifully colored sheets of paper that will make lovely gifts. I wrote about both these experiences on my blog and highly recommend both.
TA: What’s something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Rose: I get frustrated with people who expect their travel experience to be just like what they have at home and who forget that they are the guests in the country they are visiting. I don’t assume that the person I am addressing speaks English — I always ask first. I try to remember that I am an ambassador for my culture and try to represent it in the best possible way.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Rose: Jordan. I think most people associate Jordan only with the Treasury at Petra, but the country has so much more in the way of historic and natural beauty. We spent six days there and barely touched the surface. The people were also extremely friendly and very welcoming. I hope to go back again and have a chance to see more of the sites.
TA: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to travelers your age?
Rose: To quote Nike — Just Do It. You don’t know what tomorrow or next week or next year will bring, so just plan a trip and go, and if it’s an experience outside your comfort zone, all the better.