Darley Newman of Travels with Darley & Equitrekking
Photo credit Chip Ward/ DCN Creative, LLC.
You know, anyone who knows me “in real life” (as opposed to Internet land), knows that I like to visit with people, even random strangers. I love learning what makes people tick, what they’re passionate about, what moves them deeply.
While these conversations have taken place in my favorite coffee shop, Papa Joe’s, anymore many of them are taking place online…sometimes on Facebook, often on Twitter during a Twitter chat. That’s in fact, how I met Darley Newman, host of PBS’s Equitrekking and AOL's/ PBS's Travel’s with Darley.
Truthfully, I didn’t realize that it was Darley I was talking to at first. That’s how a conversation can take over in a good way. That’s what happened. We got to chatting about a comment I made during a #foodiechat about our foodie bucket lists. I said to whomever was reading - turns out it was Darley - that I had this fantasy about driving down Route 66 and stopping at all the diners along the way.
Many of my regular readers probably aren’t surprised by this. I grew up in a diner family. I know the kind of connections people make at a diner’s counter over a cup of coffee and a plate of eggs.
Anyway, Darley is very engaging and has traveled everywhere, including down Route 66. She began telling me about this as we chatted that night on Twitter. Before I knew it, I was suggesting that I interview her for my blog. The next thing I know, she’s saying, “Yes.”
And now here we are, interview with Darley in hand and wanderlust stirred up. Take a look.
Buffy: Tell me about the work you do. How long have you done it?
Darley: I travel the world with locals to tell stories about food, global cultures, traditions and horseback riding adventures through my Emmy-winning PBS series Equitrekking and my newest series Travels with Darley, which is on PBS and online as digital shorts through AOL, MSN and beyond. I’ve been traveling, writing, editing and producing travel content since 2007, and I love it.
Buffy: What got you interested in food and travel journalism?
Darley: I want to see as much of the world as I can in my lifetime. Life is short! I took an inspirational family vacation to California as a kid and my first trips to Europe in high school. As a curious person, seeing new places and having these new adventures just made me want to see and do more. I believe that travel is transformative, and when you can share it through a creative production, that’s even better. Food is as well! Trying local dishes in their native areas is truly special. It’s a window into culture, history and as someone who loves good food—it just makes me happy.
Buffy: You & I became acquainted after chatting on Twitter about Route 66. You’ve done a segment on that. Tell me about it. Did you pick that location and why? What section of it were you in? What stood out the most?
Darley: We recently drove from Chicago down old Route 66 through Joliet and to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. We filmed it for an episode of our PBS TV series, which actually comes out this spring!
I was excited to take on this route, because driving along the “Mother Road” is such an iconic American road trip. You can mix retro sites and diners with modern adventures. We also visited Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, also on Route 66. They recently reintroduced bison there, and it’s a fascinating place to explore.
Buffy: What about the food? That was one of the things I mentioned on our chats…As you might recall, it is my fantasy to take a ride down Route 66 and stop at all the diners along the way. What type of restaurants did you visit? Any diners? Any other kinds of eateries worth noting?
Darley: Yes! You must stop to have a burger at an old drive through, the Polka-Dot Drive In, located in Braidwood. You can eat alongside a nine-foot Elvis, Betty Boop, and the Blues Brothers and the burgers are good. Nearby, you can pass by the Gemini Giant, shop for antiques on Water Street, hit Nelly’s Diner and sign your name on the wall, see the dinosaur Sinclair, take in a show at the historic Rialto Square Theatre and more. In Joliet, definitely go to the Rich & Creamy and get the turtle sundae. It makes for a cool trip.
Buffy: I think people have a specific idea of what Route 66 is based partly on the advertising about the road during its heyday. How much of that is accurate? What would surprise people about Route 66?
Darley: I was surprised by how well preserved many of the sites are along old Route 66. Firstly, Route 66 is diverse and various segments today may be better than others for your adventures. You need to map out your route to have the best experience. If you find somewhere you like and need more advice, ask the locals there what they recommend. You may end up off Route 66, but may also end up on even more adventures.
Buffy: I did some research on you before this interview. I found out you studied abroad in Italy. What made you do that? How has that informed your work?
Darley: Studying abroad in Italy was one of the best experiences of my life. I lived with a family in Florence and studied art, film and Italian. I ate wonderful food, drank wine and saw as much as I could in Italy during that trip, traveling all the way down to Sicily and to other parts of Europe. I had studied during a previous summer in Salamanca, Spain and lived with a family and had a great experience.
I wanted to go to Italy, as I’d briefly visited in high school and it’s just such a dreamy place. It did not disappoint and, again, further fueled my wish to see more of the world, but also dive deep into a destination. That’s what we try to do with our PBS programs and why we always put locals on camera, as they reveal something new or interesting about their destination through each experience.
Buffy: Where are you going next?
Darley: My next immediate trip is New York City, but this year should be pretty busy with more US, Europe and Asia on the agenda. Stay tuned!
Buffy: Travel tips and advice for my readers?
Darley: Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path and try something new! Also, I always recommend packing smartly and lightly for the best experiences.
Anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d like us to know?
Darley: If you haven’t seen Travels with Darley or Equitrekking, look for them on your local PBS TV channel and on Create TV!
You can watch our third season of Travels with Darley, including “Illinois Route 66 and Midewin” coming out on PBS stations starting late March. Other episodes include Hong Kong, Wyoming, a second Illinois episode featuring Ottawa and the Heritage Corridor, and Martinique, so a pretty diverse season.
Darley at a Glance:
Darley Newman Host, Writer and Producer Travels with Darley and Equitrekking