2019 May Featured Journalist of the Month: Elaine Glusac
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 06:00 AM

Elaine Glusac:

Elaine Glusac is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She specializes in travel and food and contributes to The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, AFAR, Private Clubs, Hemispheres, Virtuoso Life and many other publications. She is a connoisseur of back roads, likes underdog cities (go Midwest!), plays the ukulele, favors winter and practices Zen meditation at 30,000 feet.

Elaine's Q&A

What got you in to travel writing?

I was born to a family of travelers – my parents had their wedding in a basement so they could save for a month-long honeymoon – but I did lots of other writing before travel writing. I worked in fashion, fitness and women’s issues. These are topics people seek out daily and the regular work helped hone my reporting and writing skills. Gradually, as it strengthened, my writing practice shifted to follow my interests in travel and food, which are much more competitive and demand strong story instincts and writing skills. What I like most about what I do, is the license to ask questions and learn something new every day.


What’s the most challenging part of travel writing for you?

Balance is always a challenge, both as a working mother and a traveling reporter. Mindful of my family, I try to be super-efficient on the road. But whenever I come back, things always seem out of whack in the office, and I’m scrambling to catch up again. No complaints though. This is a good problem to have and it ensures that I’m only traveling professionally when I’m really committed to a story.


What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?

I hate to say it, but it’s my cellphone. It’s everything these days: camera, notebook, library, contact file, boarding pass, crossword puzzler. I would rather lose my wallet on the road (which has happened) than lose my phone.


What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

I’ve been lucky to have visited so many great places, but usually the memorable bits are the things that go wrong. Which happened in Venice, when our gondola capsized on a back canal. My husband Dave, son Seth and I managed to stay in the boat, but the gondolier couldn’t swim and was hanging on the gunwales threatening to swamp us. Another half dozen gondolas converged on us and their pilots were laughing their heads off. “Stand up!” they yelled in Italian. When he did, he found the water chest high, walked over to a piazza, hauled himself out of the canal, wrung out his black and white striped T-shirt and cried out, most stereotypically, “Mamma mia!” Mostly he was astonished that he hadn’t lost his Marlboros, requesting that we take a picture of him and 8-year-old Seth with the sodden pack of cigarettes front and center.


What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?

Follow your own interests. Don’t take the path of least resistance, which is often free trips for somebody else’s agenda. Find the story in the place, usually by talking to a lot of people. Start local and regional, where you can establish expertise and depth of knowledge without spending a ton of money. And don’t give up when it doesn’t work out right away. It usually doesn’t, but if you love the work and feel compelled, perseverance will come naturally, if not painlessly. 


Find Elaine's work: elainemglusac.com
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