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Author Karen White on her Tuscan villa dreams, unplugged vacations, and why she’d like to travel with Ryan Reynolds

If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go? I would rent a villa in Tuscany for at least a month and bring along my family and closest friends to enjoy an immersive experience with Italian culture complete with an Italian chef who would not only prepare amazing meals — with fabulous wine pairings — for us, but who would also teach me how to cook.
New York Times best-selling author Karen White said that meeting her readers while on book tours is — in addition to travel — one of her favorite pastimes. The Tulsa, Okla., native, who moved frequently with her family before settling in London just before the start of seventh grade, is on a multicity book tour to share her newest release, “The House on Prytania.” She will make several stops in New England, including Avon, Conn., on Aug. 15, Westerly, R.I., on Aug. 16, and Boston, at the Beacon Hill Cafe and Bookstore, on Aug. 17. “It’s so neat meeting readers who love my characters — characters who I have created — and talk about them as if they are real, because to me, my characters are real; they live in my head,” said the author of 34 novels, including the popular “Trade Street” mystery series. White said that “The House on Prytania,” the second book in a new series (“But you don’t have to read the first one to get this one,” she noted), is about a woman who, facing challenges, moves to New Orleans and buys a historic fixer-upper inhabited by, she said, “a few lingering spirits who aren’t happy to have her there.” We caught up with White, who has two adult children and lives in Milton, Ga., and Watercolor, Fla., with her husband, Tim, a senior vice president at Bank of America, and their 8-year-old “caffeinated ninja puppy” Sophie, to talk about all things travel.
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Where was the first place you traveled to after COVID restrictions were lifted? Costco. Seriously. I actually haven’t been able to travel since 2018 due to family responsibilities, which meant that I was ready for a splurge. Just returned from Nice, France, after a spectacular weeklong yacht cruise along the Italian and French Rivieras. I literally cried when I had to disembark and may have threatened to handcuff myself to my balcony railing so they wouldn’t make me leave.
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Do you prefer booking trips through a travel agent or on your own? I’m a big believer in relying on professionals for pretty much everything. I don’t change my car oil or cut my own hair, so why would I plan my own trip? I will always do my homework about any place we visit so I know what we want before approaching an agent, but I rely on a knowledgeable expert to plan the perfect vacation.
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Thoughts on an “unplugged” vacation? An “unplugged” vacation is synonymous with “dream” vacation. The pull from our devices in everyday life is draining, and I think it’s important for mental health to unplug. I attempted to do just this over the past week, but had a family emergency happen at home that I needed to deal with. But after putting out fires, I resumed my blissful unplugged status.
Do you use all of your vacation time or leave some on the table? My job allows me to budget in vacation time as needed and so does my husband’s job. Because we’re both workaholics, it makes it easier for us to use family responsibilities as an excuse and push vacation time past the point of when we really need them. This past week I’ve learned how important downtime is, and it is my goal to make it happen at least twice a year.
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What has been your worst vacation experience? Getting food poisoning in Egypt while visiting the Valley of the Kings and then having to take a night train to our next destination.
Do you vacation to relax, to learn, or for the adventure of it all? Relaxation is usually the primary goal, but learning new things is a close second. I’m always looking for fodder for the next book. I’m not much of an adventurer, so you won’t see me parasailing or bungee jumping — although I did enjoy zip lining in the Costa Rican jungle. My husband loves to scuba dive, so he and our son go on their own dive trips to exotic locales while I stay home alone with the dog — which is sometimes almost like a vacation, too.
What book do you plan on bringing with you to read on your next vacation? For vacation, I always bring the thickest book from my to-be-read shelf. I prefer holding a real book instead of an e-reader, but rarely have the time for the epic sagas — until it’s time for vacation. Next up for me: “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah.
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If you could travel with one famous person/celebrity, who would it be? Ryan Reynolds. He’s very down-to-earth as far as celebrities go, and both my husband and I love his sense of humor. Plus, he could get us into places with his celebrity status. As a bonus, he’s not that hard on the eyes. And if he’d want to bring along his lovely wife, Blake Lively, we could double-date.
What is the best gift to give a traveler? As someone who is always cold — especially on planes and cooler evenings — I think a lightweight wrap or shawl is an excellent choice.
What is your go-to snack for a flight or a road trip? A bag of shelled pistachios. They’re easy to pack, tasty, and nutritious — and they are already shelled, so it’s a lot less messy.
What is the coolest souvenir you’ve picked up on a vacation? When our children were younger, we took them to Italy and visited a glass factory in Murano. We watched as a glass blower made each of them a small glass horse, a seeming miracle created from using fire to turn sand into liquid. It was incredible to watch him create the figures, but even more wonderful was watching our children’s faces during the process.
What is your favorite app/website for travel? My go-to website is Expedia.com to check for pricing and availability. Then I’ll head to Yelp for reviews.
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What has travel taught you? Traveling has helped me to see myself as a global citizen and not just as an American. We co-inhabit this planet with others who share the same human desires we have, meaning that no one is a “foreigner” regardless of where we travel.
What is your best travel tip? Dresses are the way to go for efficient packing. Instead of trying to match tops with bottoms, dresses are a “one and done” outfit and are easier to roll — which is another tip for wrinkle-free packing.
Juliet Pennington can be reached at writeonjuliet@comcast.net.

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