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National Geographic Live with Writer and Adventurer Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard Plumbs the Deep, Hard Lessons of Travel

By Katherine Potter Thompson

“I’m not one of these people who’ve gone to the ends of the earth and confronted death in the jungle,” says Joyce Maynard, well-known author, columnist, and contributor to National Geographic Traveler magazine. “I have had a sort of Forrest Gump-ish travel career—popping up at odd moments in a pretty diverse assortment of places on the planet, in which the only element linking them all may be the fact that I popped up there.”

New York Times cover (1972). Photo courtesy of Joyce Maynard.

For her conversation with Traveler editor-at-large Don George at Nat Geo headquarters on May 8, Maynard will explore the ways travel functions in a person’s life. The first trip she took—as an 11-year-old on a train to Mexico with her sister and mother—set her compass. In 1965, not many women traveled by themselves on trains to Mexico, let alone with children.

For Maynard, the most fulfilling travel is not about experiencing luxury, but about taking risks and, as she puts it, “removing one’s self from the comfort zone.”

A single parent for many years, Maynard frequently took her three children traveling with her. The scenarios were always along the lines of single parent, limited funds, determined to go anyway. When her children were 9, 11, and 15, she saw an ad for a 3-day package trip to London for $100. They packed up and had an unforgettable, crazy, nonstop weekend abroad.

Joyce biking Italy with her son Will. Photo courtesy of Joyce Maynard.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, all three of Maynard’s children—now in their twenties and thirties—became adventuresome travelers themselves. “The price a parent pays for showing her children the world, when they’re young, is likely to include the experience of watching them head off to some slightly dangerous places, when they’re older. And mine have done that.”

Maynard tunes into the transformative nature of travel. In addition to sharing some of her adventures (in places as diverse as British Columbia, Guatemala, Macedonia, and -long ago-  Muhammad Ali’s Michigan training camp), she intends to recount her experience on the most difficult trip of her life to the National Geographic audience—a story embarked on under the auspices of Traveler magazine, but for reasons she’ll talk about, has never published. Continue the journey with Joyce Maynard at 7:30 pm, Tuesday, May 8, at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets.