Lost Girl of the Week: Cynthia Clampitt

Lost Girl of the Week — By on June 22, 2011 at 6:00 am

This week’s lost girl, Cynthia Clampitt, is a freelance writer, food historian, and world traveler. But she didn’t start out that way. Like most women her age, after college graduation, she headed for the corporate world. She did well, and it was fun for a while. However, there was always a sense that she was in the wrong place, and that feeling kept growing as the years went by. Then she remembered that she was supposed to be a writer, so in her mid-30s, she walked away from security and money to pursue the dream—heading first to Australia for six months, to avoid the temptation of accepting a job offer and to find out what she could do.

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I started my adventure in Australia with nothing more than dreams and a hotel for my first stop, Brisbane. I hadn’t been on a vacation in years, and my only previous solo travel had been a couple of long weekends to the Shakespeare Festival in Canada. However, there was something that told me I was in the right place and doing the right thing.
I had enjoyed summer camp in my childhood, but it had been decades since I’d done anything more outdoorsy than eating on a restaurant’s patio. I’d spent years in a tailored suit and high heels. So when I got to Australia, I started slowly, with daytrips out to see mountains and rainforest. The wildness of these places resonated so powerfully that I knew instantly that I would have little trouble, at least psychologically, making the adjustment to a rougher lifestyle.

I had done my homework, so I knew which direction I needed to travel to take advantage of the changing seasons. My wandering would end up carrying me across nearly 20,000 miles of the land Down Under, circling and crossing the continent.

The rainforest in Queensland awakened my understanding that I needed nature in my life. A few weeks later, camping in the rugged, arid Red Centre made me feel as if I’d finally come home. I had discovered that I was not just a writer; I was an adventurer.

I still enjoyed the cities—the museums, restaurants, theaters, art galleries—but I was haunted by the wild places. I crossed the mountains on horseback, camped around Tasmania, visited the remote Pilbara Region. Even being trapped in a flash flood turned out to be exciting.

I returned home and built the writing career I’d hoped for, but I also built my life around travel and adventure. I’ve returned to Australia three times, for one month each time, and have gone farther out on each trip. But Australia has just been one among many destinations, from Mongolia to Morocco, Iceland to India, Ecuador to Egypt, and a dozen others.

Because of my interest in food history, I’ve pursued the culinary as much as I’ve looked for beauty, culture, and adventure. I’ve studied pre-Columbian cooking with Zapotec Indians in Mexico, drunk fermented mare’s milk with nomad herders in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, visited farms in China and Vietnam, researched spices and cuisine in southern India, and browsed markets everywhere.

With a happy ending in place, I turned my journal from my first trip to Australia into a book titled Waltzing Australia, and I keep a blog— http://www.waltzingaustralia.com —to support the book and share even more about the land that gave me my start in this new life. For my other travels, as well as for food history and exotic recipes, I keep a second blog: http://www.theworldsfare.org.

I also do a fair bit of public speaking, trying to encourage others to travel and offering practical advice on how to make the open road more like home. Of course, to support my “habit,” I have to work—but I do that from home, now. I write about food, history, and geography, all topics related to what I love about the world. And between all these projects, I am always planning the next adventure.

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