Irene S. Levine, PhD is a psychologist and award-winning journalist, author, and blogger, who writes about travel and lifestyle for some of the nation’s leading magazines, newspapers and websites. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and produces two websites of her own: MoreTimeToTrave (providing information and inspiration for travelers over 50); and TheFriendshipBlog (an online advice magazine for women on navigating the tricky terrain of female friendships).
When did you first start traveling?
I grew up in New York City and my first travels as a child were pretty basic: car trips with my parents on Sundays. We would travel around the tri-state area, often visiting family and friends or taking in all the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells of Manhattan.
What kind of travel do you prefer (e.g. luxury, budget, backpacking, train travel, etc.) – and has that changed over time?
Crossing over the half-century mark has made me more discerning about how I spend my time. I’d always opt for luxury and creature comforts, but raised by depression-era parents, I’m extremely mindful of value. I’m an ardent fan of river and ocean cruising, luxury villas, and of all-inclusive properties because they don’t make you feel nickel-and-dimed.
How do you like to travel – alone, with a spouse/partner, other family members, with friends or as part of a tour group?
My favorite travel companion is my husband/collaborator/photographer, Jerry. I’m also thrilled when our adult son, Andrew, can join us on a trip. From the time Andrew was very young, he has helped us see the world in new and different ways. Of course, no woman ever ages out of traveling with girlfriends!
Besides travel, what are your passions?
I seem to spend most of my life, either purposely or accidently, collecting adventures and writing about them, both at home and away. Being a travel writer allows me to combine my passions for food, travel, people and writing. I feel incredibly blessed.
Have your passions played a role in the choice of travel destination?
Trained as a psychologist and having had a long career in that field before my “second act,” I love to meet, observe, and talk to people of different backgrounds and cultures. Often, my husband and I are fortunate enough to make new friends during the course of our travels, both locals and other tourists.
Do you consider travel a necessity or a luxury? What are you prepared to sacrifice so you can travel?
Once bitten by the travel bug, it’s hard to give up. All of life entails tradeoffs and sacrifice, both in terms of time and money.
What are you prepared to pay extra for when you travel?
I am picky about where I sleep and what I eat—so I am willing to pay for those self-indulgent luxuries that have come to be necessities.
What has been the most fascinating destination you have visited from a cultural perspective?
We have fallen in love with the people and culture of Mexico. We are especially fascinated by the differences among different regions of our neighbor to the South.
What place in the world surprised you? Was the experience better or worse than expected?
Morocco was probably the most exotic place to which we have traveled. Having a wonderful guide went a long way in helping us understand a very different culture and way of life.
Is there somewhere you return to year after year? Why?
We own a fractional property in Los Cabos, Mexico. The juxtaposition of ocean and desert, coupled with the warmth and hospitality of the people, makes this place very special.
Tell us where your top three travel experiences occurred and what made them stand out.
France, Italy and Peru – Food, food, food
Where in your own hometown do you encourage people to visit?
We live in a presidential town, one that is home to one former president and that, one day, may become home to two! I always take guests to see the Clinton house, which is actually modest by presidential standards. Since we live in a bucolic hamlet, it’s always a treat to combine a visit to Chappaqua with one to New York City. We also like to show-off Dan Barber’s lovely farm-to-table destination restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which is only a stone’s throw away from our town.
Final Question: Do you have a favorite movie (or song, television program, book) that inspires travel?
I’m addicted to House Hunters International and fantasize about living in different locales around the world.