Author Elaine Jean has always had the drive to get out and explore. She just never thought her chronic wanderlust would develop into a regular column and, eventually, into a book.
But three years after she and photographer-husband Paul Jean launched roamingtheplanet.com -- and dozens of Day Tripper columns and feature stories for the Loudoun Times-Mirror and Fairfax County Times -- the writer is well on her way to becoming an authority on the interesting and sometimes bizarre places to visit in the area.
Her book, “Carpe Weekend: 52 Day Trips and Adventures near Washington, DC,” is a collection of their adventures. It’s a guide for anyone looking to explore and learn more about the region, whether new to the area or a life-long resident. Keeping a copy handy ensures readers will never have to take visitors on the same old tour of the city again.
Question: How did you first get the idea for Day Tripper?
Answer: I’m serious when I say I’m plagued with wanderlust. For years Paul and I would pack up the kids and a picnic lunch and drive around whatever state we called home at the time, seeking quick adventures and a slice of another life. A couple of decades later, I’d become a writer and relocated to the Mid-Atlantic region. So it’s only natural that I’d want to share stories about my visits to a log cabin in West Virginia where the owners handcraft limoncello, and to a Buddhist monastery in Maryland where the residents truly have found dharma near DC. To top it off, I happen to be married to a fantastic photographer. This all was just meant to be.
Q: What was your motivation to publish a book?
A: We enjoyed making over 80 day trips that were distilled to the 52 that are included in Carpe Weekend, and it changed my attitude about life. One day I realized that the average weekend contains 60 hours – from quitting time on Friday to the squawk of the alarm on Monday morning – and that how we use that precious time defines who we really are. I had already written for three newspapers and developed a website (roamingtheplanet.com) and thought a book might further encourage people to throw caution to the wind, have a great adventure and learn a little about themselves in the process.
Q: Of all the places you’ve visited, which is your favorite?
A: That’s a really tough question, because I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. But I will say that I keep returning to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and it has a profound impact on me every time. The museum is, in itself, a grand work of art that shares the nitty-grittiest details of the human condition in a way that is remarkably delightful and life affirming. I’m a sucker for PostSecret, and since Frank Warren is on the advisory board (along with film maker John Waters and clown-for-peace Patch Adams) the museum usually features an exhibit of those tawdry little confessions.
Q: Is there any place you haven’t visited yet that you plan to see soon?
A: There are still some stones unturned … literally ... since we live in such a culturally rich and vibrant area. I haven’t seen Foamhenge yet, which is a full-size replica of Stonehenge that was designed and built on the property of the Natural Bridge in the Shenandoah Valley by Mark Cline of Enchanted Castle Studios.
Q: What’s your advice for any aspiring day trippers?
A: Just do it! Time waits for no one. First and foremost, buy my book and dog ear all the pages that interest you. Then extricate yourself from the recliner, put the remote control down, hop in the car and fill up the gas tank. For the best experience, it’s essential that you get outside your comfort zone and talk to a few strangers … the stranger the better. In doing so, I’ve found we’re all a lot more alike than we are different.
Q: What’s next for you? Perhaps another book?
A: This summer I’m having a lot of fun promoting Carpe Weekend, but I’m also considering another writing project. Since Paul and I are home brewers, this might be a book about how brewing beer has improved our social lives, helped us lose weight and given us a new common interest (now that our kids are all grown up). Tentative working title: “So Hoppy Together.”
Q: Where can readers purchase your book?
A: Carpe Weekend is available on amazon.com (it’s eligible for Super Saver shipping and can be on your doorstep in three days), as well as at Very Virginia in Leesburg, Corcoran Winery in Waterford, Aldie Peddler in Aldie and the Bloomery Plantation Distillery just over the border in Charles Town, W.Va. And it’s in Politics and Prose in Washington, DC.