THE (SLIGHTLY) NERVOUS TRAVELLER: KIMBERLY McCREIGHT

Kimberly McCreight, 40, is the author of Reconstructing Amelia (Simon & Schuster), which has been compared (by The Sunday Times and Jodi Picault) to ‘Gone Girl’. She originally trained as a lawyer but realized she was in denial about being a writer, so left to pursue that career. Reconstructing Amelia is her fifth written novel, but the first to be published. Married with two daughters (6 and 9), she lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York.

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I never travelled as a child. I was brought up in the Tri-State area around New York, my parents were divorced, and we just didn’t get away much. So, as an adult, I was determined to make travelling a part of my life. The first chance I had to go abroad was to Japan when I was at college, to a small town between Osaka and Kyoto. Talk about a baptism of fire. But it was a fabulous experience. I was studying, but also got to do some touristy things – I climbed Mount Fuji. What I didn’t realise was, it’s a proper mountain. It was in the guidebook as a ‘must-do’, so I thought: how hard can it be? Well, it’s a tough climb and there is snow at the top and you really shouldn’t do it in running sneakers. My feet ached for days. I was walking like a Geisha. Lesson one of travelling for me: always double-check whatever the guidebook recommends.
I lived in London for a year when my then fiancé and now husband came to study. What I loved about being in the UK was how you could zip off to other countries so easily. I don’t think you appreciate that here. So we went to France, Italy, even Russia. That’s another thing I learned: don’t try and do St Petersburg on a budget. It was beautiful and fascinating, but we definitely weren’t prepared for the expense.
I am also trying to give my kids the chance to travel, because I do feel I missed out on seeing other cultures when I was young. One of my daughters has a fear of flying, which I think she got from me – I have a mild form. When we were on honeymoon in South Africa, I realised how small the plane was going to be taking us up to the Kruger – you could wind the windows down, for goodness sake – and I had to go to the doctor and get tranquilizers to get onboard. It was worth it, though. I have never been to a place that made me feel so insignificant. Not just the animals, but also the scale of it – one tree standing on an enormous horizon beneath an even larger sky. I can’t wait to go back.
We’ve fortunate in that neither of the girls are ‘Princess’ types, so we don’t get Disney pressure. It’s not much talked about as school, which is just as well – it’s such an expensive vacation. I looked at how much and then said: you know, we can go to the South of France for the same number of dollars. So we’ve just come back from Provence, although it was a challenge persuading my daughter about the flight. But by the time we got there, she was ‘what’s all the fuss about?’ She is also a very picky eater and I think it’s great to get children out of their comfort zone and into eating different foods. I told her she couldn’t afford to be fussy in France. Neither my husband nor I speak very good French, so I said we’ll be lucky if we get something that isn’t snails, and it worked, she tucked in.
We also try and go skiing every year. My husband is a very good skier and I’m.. not. But I try and hide that from the kids when we are teaching them. ‘You follow, dad, I’ll be right behind’ kind of thing. Normally, we ski on the East Coast, but last year we went to Vail in Colorado. It’s better in a number of ways. It’s less icy than the in East and it’s much less crowded on the slopes. Which means I can look like I know what I am doing – it’s much easier to fool the kids on the wide, empty slopes.
We are lucky because we can leave the children with the in-laws and get away by ourselves for short breaks. Often, though, we just stay in the city and do a show and restaurants. But a few years back we went to Costa Rica, which I love – it’s so lush and both the animals and the people are wonderful. We didn’t make the coast, but stayed in the centre, around the volcano. It was actually my second time there. After college I had backpacked there down through Mexico with a friend. Two girls backpacking alone in Central America – what were we thinking? Nothing bad happened, but the hassle was constant and relentless. We definitely had hassle fatigue by the time we had finished the trip. And again I made the mistake of believing the guidebook, that climbing the Chichen Itza pyramid on the Yucatan was easy. That thing is steep. I got to the top and thought: there’s no way I am ever going to get down.
I’m not very good with beaches. My husband is OK. In St Thomas in the Caribbean I kept insisting we go into town for dinner. Which was usually disappointing for one reason or another – I simply didn’t realise, that’s not really what you do in the Caribbean. It’s a beach holiday. Just stay put at the hotel. But I like a little adventure. So the next big trip is probably Macchu Picchu or possibly Kilimanjaro. That’s more climbing iconic sites – but this time, I’ll check what footwear I need.

* Kimberly McCraight talked to Robert Ryan

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