Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Have Books, Will Travel

I was visiting an elementary school in St. Michael, Minnesota, last week, and thought to myself, "I have the best job in the world." I was teaching a fun lesson on a subject that I love, students were stopping me in the hall to give me hugs and hand me notes saying I was "cool", teachers were thanking me for getting their classes excited about writing, and everyone was telling me how much they liked my books. On top of all that, I was getting paid.

Visiting schools is one of my favorite parts of being an author. Unlike my friend Laurie whose job sent her on the road 157 days last year (for expert advise and entertaining stories, check out her blog site, The Accidental Business Traveler), I only have a handful of out-of-town travels each year, which makes my overnight school visits feel almost like a vacation. And because I feel like I'm on vacation, here are a few of the perks I indulge in when my school visits take me out of town:

* I strive to eat at only non-chain restaurants. I'll take a diner's hamburger steak dinner with American fries and Texas toast over the Perkin's special any day of the week. And always ask the locals for their favorite places to get a good meal; plenty of times the best cafe is hidden around a corner that I would have otherwise overlooked.

* I ALWAYS check out the local bakery. I can remember the small town's mint brownies, moon pies, and apple fritters, long after I've forgotten the name of the school I visited.

*The local library is another great spot to hang out, as are the antique shops, where I can spend several pleasant hours scouring the shelves for vintage Cracker Jack prizes to add to my collection.

*Time in my hotel room allows me the luxury of reading without a hundred household chores staring me in the face. Heck, I don't even have to make my own bed! I also get to indulge in television watching which I don't do at home. Ten minutes of tube time can sometimes be enough to remind me why I don't have a working television...and then I can go back to reading again.

*A swimming suit is a staple in my suitcase in case the hotel has a whirlpool where I can soak in the evening.

*And before any school visit that will involve a long drive, I stop by the library and check out a bagful of CDs. Showtunes, music from the 40's and 50's, and middle grade audio books are my favorites. They really do make the miles fly by. And I've been known to stay sitting in my garage after a five-hour car trip so I can listen to the end of an especially engaging audio book.

*Finally one last item I've learned to pack to make sure that my time away from home is pleasant: earplugs. Noisy hotel air conditioners and close-at-hand interstate traffic no longer keep me awake at night, and I get up in the morning well rested and happy to spend time with a new school of students.


Edie Hemingway said...


Thanks for sharing this good advice! Perfect timing, as I'm about to leave on a 12-day trip to Kentucky and then on to NC for 6 school visits. And I'm going to remember to take my camera. You always include such great photos with your posts!

David LaRochelle said...

Happy travels, Edie! Yes, a camera is another thing that I've learned to pack. Digital cameras are amazing. And when it comes to packing for long trips, you should read my friend Laurie's recent blog post.

I look forward to seeing photos and a report from your time in North Carolina.

Lauren said...

These are great suggestions David. You definitely know how to take care of yourself when you are on the road. Ear plugs. I must remember ear plugs for the next time I travel. And I love the photos! You do have the best job!

Stephanie said...

I love all these, David. I'll have to keep an eye out for Cracker Jack prizes from now on. I used to bring ear plugs, but I switched to Tylenol PM ;)I always get a good night's sleep.

Mark said...

Plenty of great advice here, David. Audiobooks on long drives have been a staple of mine for years, definitely makes the miles go by quicker! And having kids tell you you're cool is, well, pretty cool too!!

Laurie Miles said...

What a great post, David, and what a nice surprise to see you plugging my travel blog!

I may travel more than you do, but your post is chock full of reminders of the things that make travel special. I especially appreciate your desire to eat at non-chain restaurants. It's more work to suss out a good non-chain but worth the effort--at least most of the time!

Like you, I love driving while listening to audio books. I can remember a good story all over again that I listened to while driving that same route several months earlier. I still associate GRAYSON by Lynne Cox with the Siskiyou Mountains and FEED by M. T. Anderson with the surreal traffic around San Jose.

Happy travels!

john said...

David, what a great week you had. Your tips brought pictures to my mind including a non-chain restauraunt that I visited with you called the Boondocks that I remember fondly.

David LaRochelle said...

Oh, I remember that restaurant, and our dinner, very well, John! And I've been back their twice - once during an out-of-town school visit, and once while visiting state parks with Gary.