Facets of a traveling life

Posted 5/22/10

“It’s not that the grass is always greener, it’s that you can’t be on both sides of the lawn.” … Laura Fraser. Fraser remembers an …

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Facets of a traveling life


“It’s not that the grass is always greener, it’s that you can’t be on both sides of the lawn.” … Laura Fraser.

Fraser remembers an idyllic summer in beautiful San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, when as the youngest of Virginia and Chuck Fraser’s four daughters, she and her family left their Littleton home for the summer to experience the rhythms, sights and sounds of another world, and hopefully begin to learn another language. The 10-year-old gained confidence as she and her sisters explored freely and made friends with the bakery owner, artists and other residents.

The summer stay led to a subsequent career path, at least partly inspired by her mother’s independence and activism and her dad’s solid, supportive presence.

On June 7, she will be in Littleton for a family visit and appearance at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch to talk with readers and sign copies of “All Over the Map,” her newly published memoir.

“All Over the Map,” begins in the lovely Zocalo, square, in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she has gone to celebrate her 40th birthday and meet again with the Professor, her French lover with whom she found joy as she recovered from a difficult divorce. They had met sporadically over four years at various places in the world. Her previous best seller, “An Italian Affair” had ended with her being uncertain if they would meet again.

He told Laura that there was another woman in his life, a permanent relationship. She arrives home, contemplating a suitcase full of dirty clothes and an emptiness in her life that calls for some sort of action.

For this seasoned travel journalist, that would mean packing that suitcase and heading out again from her San Francisco apartment — a fantasy plan for many of us, but a way of life for this woman who creates a story idea and pitches it to a magazine or newspaper who will buy it — and pay for the trip.

And, she repeatedly wonders if she will ever have a home and family of her own, as the biological clock ticks on.

Fraser has created a fine career, with her work published in a wide range of periodicals ranging from New York Times and Gourmet to Mother Jones and many food, travel and health-oriented publications. Often, her angle includes the women in a given locale or situation. She is an in-demand speaker, appears on TV and and teaches in a wide array of workshops.

Her eight-year journey in “All Over the Map” led her first back to the Colorado wilderness and a strenuous Outward Bound week. A college reunion with Wesleyan University classmates followed. Most seemed settled with careers, marriages and kids — a niche she thought she wanted. Those women were envious of her freedom to pick up and go.

A New York visit brings a fling with a hunky Brazilian and next, she’s off to Italy: Naples, Rome, Trieste, for a story about the dismal lives of immigrant women forced into sex trafficking.

Tropical Samoa beckoned, with a possible story about fa’afafine, a third gender in that society. Sadly, she suffered a sexual assault there that made her feel vulnerable and afraid of travel for a long time.

A Texas prison story adds to her anxiety, as does a Kansas City story about a 50 year old divorcee who became HIV positive after a single encounter. Time with good friends helps and after a cycling trip in Provence with a cousin, surrounded by fine food and wind and great scenery, things looked brighter, aided by a brief Paris visit with the Professor.

A Gourmet assignment to write about the food in the Aeolian Islands, a trip shared with an Italian friend brought a level of contentment, that allowed her to head to Buenos Aires to improve her tango skills and write about being a turista tanguera.By 2005, there was a new man in her life, who agreed to travel and hike in Peru for yet another story.

Rwanda meant excruciating accounts of the 1994 genocide and a ray of hope in a visit to a coffee project in Butare, which resulted in a New York Times international business story.

In winter 2007, an editor called about a story on single expatriate women who were enjoying life in San Miguel de Allende and with her return there came a joy that led to purchase of a very old, very small house, which she was able to turn into a perfect little spot for herself — the first home she has owned. It surrounds her with tranquility, in contrast to lively San Francisco, which is still really home.

She can live part time in each place, feel at peace with her world as it is and continue her career.


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