Austin-based singer-songwriter Bonnie Whitmore has the kind of plaintive vocals that convey a song’s meaning as much as her introspective lyrics. On her new album “Last Will & Testament,” the musician deals with rape culture (“Asked For It”), gun-related rampages (“Time To Shoot”) and the importance of self-care (“Fine”). The daughter of an airline pilot and an opera singer — and the sister of Eleanor Whitmore of the band The Mastersons — Whitmore said there was always music in her household. And thanks to her father’s job, she grew accustomed to traveling constantly, which prepared her for a life of touring. To learn more about Whitmore, check out her website (www.bonniewhitmore.com).
Q: What untapped destination should people know about?
A: Pomeroy, Iowa. I've actually found a lot of really cool towns in Iowa with hidden Frank Lloyd Wright hotels and houses. In Pomeroy, it is all about the bar and hippie haven called Byron's. It's an incredibly inclusive and funky place that will leave you questioning if any of these memories are truly real or just a dream. They also have the Kaleidoscope Factory. My joy in life is getting to find weird little places like these.
Q: What was the first trip you took as a child?
A: The earliest memorable trip I can recall was to Hawaii when I was around four or five. I remember we had to fly on a different airline to get there, because Delta — the airline my dad flew for — didn't at the time. I remember the flight attendant gave us flower leis and let me help them by picking up the trash from the other passengers. We stayed in these condos that were right by the beach.
Q: What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A: To eat where the locals eat and do what the locals do. That's the only way to have an authentic experience. That and (pack with) travel cubes.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A: We used to take trips down to Utopia, Texas, when I was a kid. We'd camp near the Sabinal River with the huge cypress trees. We'd find the parts of the river with dinosaur footprints and float over the little dams like we were whitewater rafting. Unfortunately, a tornado tore up the campground years ago and we haven't been back since.
Q: Where is the most romantic destination?
A: Spain. Barcelona and Granada are incredible.
Q: If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A: One year we did Christmas in South Carolina, because my dad wasn't able to get it off work. The layover was in Charleston. Everything was closed and it was colder than expected, but we walked around the town and stayed at a very nice hotel and I had lamb chops and cheese grits for the first time. It was more about being together, than the destination. All other times we've been at my folks’ home or in Terlingua (Texas) for the holidays.
Q: What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A: My friend and I were supposed to travel from Barcelona to Greece, but we missed our first flight out. It was a stupid mistake that cost $800 a piece to fix, and I was already maxing out my credit cards for this trip. It almost cost us the trip to Greece entirely, but we managed to work it out and got an extra day in Barcelona. What came out of that unfortunate blunder was the friend we had been staying with took us to his favorite places just north of the city. We ate paella and drank champagne sangria on the beach and watched the sun set. In our mad rush to try and make the flight, we didn't get to say a proper goodbye to these wonderful folks, so this opportunity was a beautiful moment I was grateful not to miss out on. Even though it cost us, I'm so glad we got to say a proper goodbye to him and to Spain.
Q: What are your five favorite cities?
A: New York, Barcelona, Granada, Amsterdam, Wellington (New Zealand).
Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A: Senegal or Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco. I'd also love to go to places in South America. I wish I could be like Anthony Bourdain and travel everywhere eating and drinking in the culture. There really isn't a place I would not want to experience, except I don't exactly blend in. I am painfully aware that I look like an American, but if I was given the opportunity, I would want to go somewhere that didn't needlessly put my life in danger.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A: Bakeries and dinosaur-related attractions. That's why Sinclair gas station always gets my vote. I will always want to pet that long neck.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
© 2020 JAE-HA KIM
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