Interview with Travel Writer Janna Graber

Chance Encounters

*RE-BLOGGED FROM You Read It Here First

So many of us dream of travelling, writing, and sharing our amazing experiences, but Colorado-based journalist, editor, and producer Janna Graber has done more than just dream. In addition to writing for publications such as Redbook, Reader’s Digest, The Chicago Tribune, etc., in the interests of travel and gaining invaluable life experiences, she’s gone dog-sledding, saddled up for excitement and riding at some of Colorado’s dude ranches, and even toured my ownOntario Wine Country to sample our finest wines in the Niagara Valley! But for Janna, it’s more than just the travel that drives her; it’s the personal connections she makes with people all over the globe that resonate most deeply with her. Now, she’s written a book, Chance Encounters: Travel Tales From Around the World (World Traveler Press, 2014) that focuses on experiences and personal connections she and other globe trotters have enjoyed. To learn a little more about this fascinating woman, her newest book, and what inspires her, read on.


Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q: Tell us, Janna, how did you get the idea for the book?

A: In my travels, I often crossed paths with extraordinary people — people who lived in situations different from my own, but who touched me in some way. Some of those encounters enriched my journey, inspired me or even changed my way of thinking. I knew other travelers experienced this as well, so I decided to create a book that would celebrate these unique and incredible travel encounters.

Q: How many authors were featured in the book?

ANineteen top international travel writers were featured in the book.

Q: How were pieces selected?

A: We received hundreds of submissions from writers around the globe and selected 23 final stories. I looked for well-written pieces that followed the writer’s internal journey, as well as his/her external experience. Each story in the book provides a you-are-there feeling, allowing the armchair traveler to experience a unique part of the world from the writer’s perspective. The stories are all very different from each other, which makes reading the book so enjoyable. 

Q: What are some of your own stories that were included?

A: “My Friend, the Enemy” was actually the story that inspired the idea for the book. In 1987 while on a short student trip to East Germany, I met a young East German student who reached out in friendship, even though it was dangerous for him to do so. After I left, we had to write in secret through this grandma. It’s been 25 years now since the Berlin Wall fell, and we have been close friends ever since — simply because we crossed paths long ago.

Another story of mine, “The Parisian Angel” tells how a young French woman helped me after I had been robbed in Paris. She reached out to me when I needed it most, and helped to restore my faith in Paris.

Q: Tell us about some of the other tales in the book.

A: Christina Hamlett writes of a treasured encounter in Hawaii that she has never forgotten. Kimberley Lovato’s tale of an elevator ride with a courageous woman in Paris packs deep emotions into a matter of minutes, from recollections of childhood memories to profound realizations of life.

Nithin Coca’s conversation with a taxi driver in Dubai leaves an impression that he won’t forget, and during a hike with a young monk in BhutanShilpa Gupta learns a lesson not about Buddhism, but about herself.

Cece Romanyshyn is moved by the strength of three young Kenyan sisters who are faced with a heart-wrenching local custom, and Rob Woodburn marvels at the resourcefulness of two young men from Malawi in their quest for a decent pair of shoes.

These are just a few examples. The book is packed with incredible tales of chance travel encounters that touched or changed someone’s life.

Q: Travel writing isn’t something most people just jump into. What is your background?

A: I began my journalism career covering women’s news for Chicago Tribune, Redbook, McCall’s and other publications. When the Columbine tragedy happened in my own backyard, it was very difficult for me to write about. These were my neighbors, and I couldn’t help but feel their sorrow. After that, I decided to turn my energies to covering positive stories of travel and the strength of the human spirit.

After 9/11, travel writing changed. I was told that Americans weren’t interested in international travel. But I knew that wasn’t true. In 2003, I started, an online magazine devoted entirely to world travel. We work with travel writers around the world covering stories in more than 90 countries. I’ve been covering travel ever since.

Q: When you travel, you do much more than visit resorts and tourist attractions; you learn about the native cultures and people of the places you visit. What is the most interesting fact you discovered about a place, people, or thing on your travels?

A: What I’ve learned is that people are more alike than they are different. Yes, I may have a different home or lifestyle than a mom living in Shanghai, but deep down we are still mothers who hope for the best in our children. I always find so much in common with those I meet on my travels – and that provides a genuine connection that cultural differences can’t erase.

Q: Most of us choose to travel the paved roads, but you go off-road all the time. Can you share with us your most funny, or difficult, travel situation?

A: I love small towns and rural and rugged landscape. Some of my favorite travel experiences have been snorkeling with belugas near the Arctic Circle in the 800-person town of ChurchillMinnesota, and going on safari in the Outback on an Aboriginal Reserve at the northern tip of Australia. The people who live in these kinds of rugged environments fascinate me, and I enjoy being around them.

Q: What inspires you to write and travel, Janna?

A: I’m always curious and eager to learn about new places, people, and cultures. Travel allows me to step out of my comfort zone, broaden my view, and experience new things.

Q: Although travel writing looks exciting and glamorous, I’m sure many, many times it isn’t. What advice would you give to writers who would like to learn more about or get involved in travel writing?

A: Ten years ago, it was possible to make a passable living with travel writing, but the media world has changed. Fewer print publications cover travel, and online writing just doesn’t pay as much. Nowadays, travel writing is a good second career. You have to pursue it for the passion, not the money. It helps to have another source of income while you do that.

Q: How do you choose the places to visit and write about?

A: Since I went to university in Vienna, I feel at home in Europe. European destinations continuously draw me. I’m also in love with Australia, so travel there whenever I can. Generally though, I simply look for opportunities to travel and experience new things. I’m open to almost any place where travel is safe.

Q: Is there someplace you haven’t been to yet that you are determined to go to? If so, why?

A: I’d like to go on safari in Tanzania and BotswanaMongolia is also on my wish list. I’ve never been to any of these places, but have read other writers who have inspired me to put them on my Bucket List. 

Q: What book projects are you working on next?

A: My next book in the series, called “Adventures of a Lifetime: Travel Tales from Around the World”, is also now available. Like the name says, the book includes 24 incredible travel stories from some 20 top travel writers.

My own story in the book is called “Filling in the Holes”. It’s about searching for family roots in Latvia that were tragically lost during war. It was an incredible adventure. Latvia is an undiscovered treasure.

In mid-2015 I’ll start work on an anthology devoted solely to women’s travel stories. I’m really looking forward to that one.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Janna. I, and I’m sure many of our readers, are looking forward to reading Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World, and your future works as well.


Amazon link to Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World

Amazon link to Adventures of a Lifetime: Travel Tales from Around the World

World Traveler Press:

Go World Travel Magazine:




Ontario’s West Coast

Grand Bend Beach

Grand Bend Beach


While many visitors to Ontario head north to the Muskoka and Kawartha Lakes for relaxation and recreation, Ontario’s West Coast areas are an absolute must-see for those looking for sandy shores, quaint village shopping, and an eclectic mix of eateries for every taste and budget. After all, the beaches along Lake Huron’s shores are second to none, and Grand Bend’s bustling summer tourist attractions make it one of the best spots to visit for families and individuals of all ages.


Long the summer draw of the younger, twenty plus set, Grand Bend is starting to grow up, but maintains it’s fun, exciting outlook. Three years ago the township undertook a major revamping of Main Street, along what is familiarly known as ‘The Strip” down to the beach. New sidewalks and roadway were installed, along with welcome park benches to entice visitors to sit a while and people-watch. A beach front child-friendly splash pad and playground down at the water’s edge is ideal for very young children, and beach volley ball nets beckon the young and young-at-heart to indulge in exercise and competition. Along Main Street, beautiful overhead floral baskets drape from light poles, while the Welcome sign stretching across Main Street’s entrance reminds guests and residents alike that they are indeed, welcome to Grand Bend.


The bars and eateries lining Grand Bend’s Main Street are a must to sample, from fully licensed eat-in restaurants, to fries, hot dogs, and ice cream shops lining the road down to the beach. A quick skip across the bridge to River Road provides some of the best fish and chips around at Purdy’s. Nothing beats a basket of the fresh catch of the day while sitting outdoors alongside the river and watching the pleasure boats cruise by. For those looking for something offering a little more, next door to Purdy’s you’ll find Smackwater Jack’s. This is one of Grand Bend’s newest eateries, and features excellent food, a full bar, and outside patio that graces the river’s edge, for a truly memorable eating experience. Of course no trip to Grand Bend is complete until you’ve walked with an ice cream cone along the beach’s boardwalk to the pier that juts into the lake. An ideal spot for fishing, it’s also one of the best places to watch incredible sunsets at the end of a perfect summer day.


Just five minutes south of the village of Grand Bend is The Pinery Park, one of Ontario’s finest provincial parks. Famous for its beach sunsets, incredible fall foliage of the encompassing Carolinian Forest, and extensive campgrounds, The Pinery comprises several acres of walking trails, boardwalks, and is truly a nature-lovers paradise.

Main Street, Bayfield

Main Street, Bayfield

A little further north up the coastline from busy Grand Bend, and you’ll encounter the enchanting village of Bayfield, with it’s many lovely boutiques and shops, eateries and outside patio restaurants reminiscent of old Europe. Sit outside and eat a meal al fresco at the Black Dog Inn and watch the pedestrians wander by, or step inside the quiet interior of The Little Inn on Bayfield’s Main Street, for a delightful retreat from the outside world. With its old world charm, antiquity, and incredible menu, this is one of the best places to stay and dine in the area. A short drive along Bayfield’s Main Street past rows of gingerbread houses leads down toward the water, beach, and river front, where ships of all shapes and sizes come and go. For those who enjoy the arts, each year, Bayfield hosts a variety of summer art and literary festivals, drawing visitors from far and wide, and has well earned the self-proclaimed title “One of Ontario’s Prettiest Towns”. If you’re looking for a good book to read, you really must stop and browse at Bayfield’s The Village Bookshop!


Goderich Boardwalk

Goderich Boardwalk


Just thirty minutes north of Bayfield is the thriving town of Goderich, Ontario, whose town centre roundabout was all but destroyed approximately three years ago during a devastating tornado that touched down and practically wiped the town off the map. Driving around Goderich now, you’ll see everything has been lovingly restored, while the town “square” that was completely levelled, is now bigger and better than ever. Again, nestled along the shores of Lake Huron, Goderich plays host to ships of every make and size, from pleasure craft to large fishing barges, and an extensive boardwalk that stretches for miles along the lakeshore.


Bluewater Bridge

Bluewater Bridge

Whether for a day trip or longer stay, Ontario’s West Coast has so much to offer and is well worth the drive. Grand Bend, Ontario is located just forty-five minutes from either London or Sarnia, Ontario, and the Bluewater Customs Bridge that spans the river between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan. It’s also an easy approximately two hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, so is a must-visit for anyone who loves sun, sand, cottaging, camping, shopping, great food, and good family fun!

%d bloggers like this: