Some people spend their lives avoiding new situations and change. Travel writer Sheryl Kayne seeks it out.
In fact, the 50-ish, single-mom, travel writer is happiest when she’s outside her comfort zone and she encourages others to come on out and join her.
Kayne, who calls Weston, Conn., home (she’s not there much), tells how to take traveling to a new level in her newly published “Immersion Travel USA: The Best and Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living, and Learning Excursions” (The Countryman Press; $19.95).
Immersion travel, she says, means “taking an active part in where you visit in order to learn about the culture, traditions and characteristics of each particular place.”
“I’ve always loved to travel,” she writes, “but hated being a rather ordinary kind of tourist.”
In other words, forget groups, tour buses, hotel hopping and “buzzing through major sites at the speed of Superwoman.”
Immersion travel is getting up-close-and-personal with the people of an area and their way of life — getting to know what they do, why they do it and how.
“I wanted to see, hear, smell, touch and taste where I went,” she writes of her early travels. “At the time, I didn’t know that what I wanted to experience was immersion travel.”
Don’t worry; Kayne is not talking about living with aborigines in Australia or the Masai in Tanzania. As the title of her book indicates, it is all about the opportunities in this country.
Her first immersion experience unfolded in the summer of 2003.
“It was the first time my (two) daughters and my life were organized such that I could venture off on my own for a seasonal summer position,” Kayne said in a phone interview from Florida, where she is writing a second travel book. “My goals were to drive across the country by myself … and to work somewhere new and different from where I lived.”
After researching via the Internet, Kayne applied for cooking jobs. She’d been a volunteer cook at a kibbutz in Israel and had some experience in catering. To learn baking skills, she practiced with a friend who owned a restaurant. She was hired as a breakfast/lunch cook at a remote ranch in Stehekin, Wash., in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area in the Cascades National Park Complex.
“It’s only accessible by foot on the Pacific Crest Trail or by pontoon plane or ferry,” Kayne said. “There is only one, nine-mile road from the dock to Stehekin Valley Ranch. This was truly an opportunity to get to know a very small community in a one-of-a-kind place.”
In 2005, the travel writer drove from Connecticut to Alaska and took a job near Denali National Park, where she wrote and performed history presentations for visitors. This past summer, Kayne volunteered with Head Start at the Taos Pueblo in Taos, N.M.
“Immersion Travel USA” relates some of these experiences and tells readers how to research and prepare for such trips. The book also lists the multiple opportunities for those who want immersion via education, outdoor adventure, alternative lifestyles, internships and self help and volunteer programs. Sometimes the experiences are free, some pay an hourly wage or stipend, and some trade services for room and board.
Immersion travel doesn’t have to mean that you drop out for months at a time, either. The experience can be a week, a weekend or just a day.
“Whatever you do,” Kayne said, “immersion travel changes your life and changes the way you travel.”
Take a hike
Allen Riedel was born in Kansas, but one look at the mountains in California when he was 5, and he was hooked.
“I had seen pictures in encyclopedias and books, but it was amazing to see the real thing,” said the 36-year-old high school English teacher who lives in Riverside.
Riedel developed a love for hiking and several years ago began writing for www.localhikes.com (comprehensive descriptions of hikes in metropolitan areas of 36 states and some remote areas).
Mountaineer Books in Seattle took note and asked Riedel to write two books: “Best Hikes With Dogs: Southern California” and “100 Classic Hikes in Southern California.”
Hear Riedel talk about his hiking experiences and San Diego County’s best hiking trails at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at Adventure 16, 2002 South Coast Hwy, Oceanside. The free presentation includes a slide show, Q&A and a book signing. Contact Janet at (619) 283-2362, ext. 105 or at email@example.com for details.
Riedel welcomes emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.