Douglas Pitassi is one of the most famous expert travelers and writers working today. He has enchanted people with his suave, yet adventurous character and his ability to convey complex images and experiences in terms everyone can understand. He’s the globetrotting older brother everyone wish they had. He recently took a few minutes to talk about his background and his international travels.
Which has been more critical to your success, your willingness to visit exotic places or your extraordinary ability to create images that draw readers in with your writing?
DP: They are almost equally important. Many people read my work because they are interested in the places I visit and wish they could go there themselves. On the other hand, the ability to write simple prose that touches the reader’s soul and creates vivid pictures that explode in their minds is also helpful.
What is one of the greatest compliments you’ve ever received?
DP: It happened quite recently. A woman I met told me I write so well I can make a visit to the dentist seem like an exotic adventure.
Who played the biggest role in developing your skill as a writer?
DP: Several people played influential roles in developing my writing style. My parents played a significant role because they made me write short essays about each trip we took when I was a youngster. It made me feel great if my essay was good enough to make my parents smile and nod. It meant I had somehow captured the essence of the trip. My 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Peppers, also played a seminal role. She liked my writing but insisted adding more sensory detail. She would say things like ‘I need to smell those hot peppers coming off the page, Douglas.’ That started my almost compulsive use of very descriptive words and phrases.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
DP: By the time I was in middle school I had begun to dream about having a career as a writer. There was something about the feeling I got seeing my parents and Mrs. Peppers smile when they read my work that got me hooked. Even though I wasn’t sure what I would write, I knew that I wanted to be able to write every day. When I realized I could make a lucrative career out of it, I was ecstatic.
What made you go into travel writing?
DP: It was a combination of factors. The fun and adventure of it and writing those short essays for my parent and getting a smile. But the first one I ever got published and paid for was my junior year in high school. I entered an essay writing contest, wrote about a trip to Disney World and won. One of the judges said he could almost feel the melted ice cream running down his hand when I described it. After that, I was hooked.
Some of your travels have taken you to pretty dangerous places. Are you ever afraid?
DP: Not really. I am an adventurer at heart. I sometimes wish I could have sailed with Columbus or traveled with Marco Polo as intrepid reporter Douglas Pitassi sending back missives from the ends of the earth.
Is there somewhere that you long to visit?
DP: Yes. I dream of a journey to Kathmandu. I think that’s one of the most exotic places on earth. It offers a glimpse of the Old World. I imagine sharing the article and my parents smiling and Mrs. Peppers saying ‘I can almost taste the Dahl bhat-tarkari, Douglas!’