My Reading Life: Evelyn Hannon

Exploring the powers of reading with “The Journeywoman”

Posted by Ben Landau May  05, 2016

When Iggy Pop wrote the song “Lust for Life” in 1977, he may well have had Evelyn Hannon in mind.

As founder and editor of Journeywoman, a travel blog for women that has dominated the category since she created it in 1997, Hannon has lived more in her 76 years than most of us could manage in 10 lifetimes.

From her early days as a teacher, to marriage and motherhood, to film school in her 40’s and a late-blooming career as a travel writer—reading and stories have played an essential part in her extraordinary life.

We caught up with the writer, editor and expert traveler to find out all the other ways reading has influenced her.

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7:00am: I always start the day by checking social media. It’s a great way to connect with my readers and see what’s happening in the world.

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My office is full of books, which can be quite inspirational when I’m writing a piece.  Several of these are some of my most treasured possessions, each signed by the amazing individuals who wrote them - Gloria Steinem, Archbishop Tutu, and Kim Phuc, the little girl running naked in that iconic photo of the Vietnamese War.

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As you might imagine, I’m a fairly eclectic reader—like a crow that pecks at shiny things. I’m always tearing ideas for my articles out of magazines and newspapers. I listen to recommendations from friends and browse in bookshops, but I never read best seller lists (just because everybody else is reading the latest books doesn’t mean I will).
 
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Right now on my night table, I have my Kobo (just finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr), the book The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman, a historical novel based on a true story; and Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. I recently compiled an article called, '10 Books to Keep a Traveler Company on Her Journeys. All the Light We Cannot see definitely made the list.

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10:00am: It’s time for a little reading break so I head out to one of my go-to reading spots: the bench on my veranda. With a big bowl of smart pop, my favourite snack*, it’s a great way to enjoy the good weather while reading a few chapters.

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The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baume had an incredible influence on me as a child. I will never forget the fear or the jubilation that that book provoked. I read it when I was 10–it’s actually the first of a series and I sought out and read every one.
 
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Next up I’m planning to read The Nest, an amazing debut novel about four adult siblings and the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

The photography behind me is all from my travels. Each time I’m in a new place, I like to visit local photographers to bring a bit of the magic of that destination home with me.

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However, my favourite travel photo in my home is from my grandson, Josh. He shot it during a trip to Prince Edward Island and then gave it to me as a birthday gift a few years ago. He’s not only sweet, but talented too!

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Last year I read the complete Outlander series (historical fiction). I couldn’t put those books down (talk about juicy romance!) but seriously, the way those books grabbed you and kept you wanting to read more was ‘gold star.’ And, the research done for the writing of that series was incredible. What people wore in the early 1700s, what they cooked, their medicines, their complete way of life. The history that I only memorized in high school suddenly became alive for me through these books (From Scotland in 1743 all the way to the American Revolution).

1:00pm After a morning of hard work, it’s off to meet a friend at one of my favourite local spots, The Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville.

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While I wait for her to arrive, I’ll get in a few minutes of reading time.

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I was an early adopter of the internet. Back in 1997, I went online when few people were even considering it. In fact, I became the first female online travel blogger in Canada (and perhaps the USA). Back then I couldn’t find any mentors so I naturally looked for books that could help me grow my website. I found one called Strategic Marketing for the Digital Age that talked about creating e-newsletters. That idea may be common place today but certainly not back then. Few people even had email addresses to register with. Still, because of that book, I created the Journeyman Travel Tip Newsletter and sent the first issue to 100 women. Now in its 20th year, it continues to be offered free, and it’s read by a whopping 73,500 women travelers around the world.  So yes, that book certainly helped my career.

3:00pm: Time to do some chores, before dinner.

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Speaking from a travel writer’s point of view, reading digitally is perfection. First, it lightens my luggage (a major plus). Secondly, I can load a whole bunch of books—recreational reading along with guidebooks—and carry it with me while I’m touring. I’m going to be in Iceland this summer and I just noticed that I can buy Top 10 Iceland by DK Publishing. Score!

4:00pm: Time to head home and start dinner. My work is done for the day I'm ready for some ‘me time.’ Luckily The Nest is waiting for me on my bedside table.

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* Interviewer’s note: Later in the day, after a long talk about favourite movies and our shared love for the cinema, I remarked that I hadn’t eaten popcorn in years. “I love it” I told her, “but I only ever go to the theatre with my girlfriend and she hates the stuff.” In what was one of the sweetest gestures ever, Evelyn then insisted on buying me a bag of Smart Pop at her local grocery store. 

Authors I Recommend:

I love reading mysteries written by women that teach us about a destination while their detectives are solving mysteries.

British born Jacqueline Winspear now lives in the USA. She has created a detective named, 'Maisie Dobbs' and her mysteries are set in Britain in the late 1920's and early 1930's, with the roots of each story set in the Great War, 1914-1918.

Donna Leon is the American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice that feature the fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Louise Penny is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec and focusing on her character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec provincial police.

American author Deborah Crombie has garnered tremendous praise -- and has been nominated for virtually every major mystery award -- for her police procedurals featuring Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, who are personally and professionally entwined. 

Comment (1)

Evelyn Hannon is a dear friend and an inspiration to me and countless women (and hopefully men too) I so enjoyed this article.
Sunny Holtzman January 13, 2017

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