New Ways of Seeing: An Interview with Author Teresa Fisher

Teresa Fisher launched her travel writing career in Bavaria over three decades ago, and has since penned more than 30 guidebooks, including National Geographic Traveler: Switzerland. Her stories have taken her around the globe, documenting wildlife and culture in some of the world’s more remote places, and she has been leading National Geographic travelers on European expeditions for the past several years. We recently sat down to chat with her about her favorite experiences—in Europe and beyond.

River cruising has emerged as one of the most popular methods for traveling across Europe. Do you have a favorite riverfront destination?

With so many fascinating places to visit, it’s hard to pinpoint my favorites! On the Danube, it has to be Vienna. Like a catchy waltz tune, the city always makes my heart beat faster, with its extraordinary musical legacy, grand baroque architecture, and world-class galleries and museums. I love the natural hot spring baths of Budapest, and I love journeying from Central to West Europe, ending in Bavaria—my second home for several years.

The Rhine cruise is an epic journey. I’m always struck by the number of castles and fortresses en route, the picture-perfect villages of half-timbered houses, and the scale of the Gothic cathedral in Cologne. This is also a waterway for wine lovers, with plenty of opportunities to taste the wines of the Alsace, Rhine, and Mosel regions.

What do you enjoy most about traveling by ship?

All my life I’ve been messing about on boats—sailing, windsurfing, and holidaying on our family houseboat—so I feel very at home on the water. Despite being a travel writer for the past 30 years, I’ve never quite mastered the art of packing light. So this mode of transport really suits me, as my hotel room simply comes along with me. I love those still dawns on the river, with early morning mists and wildlife sightings, before the rest of the world wakes up. And finally, I always appreciate the sundowners on deck after an engaging day of sightseeing.

Do you have any favorite travel memories?

Last summer I traveled in the open-air carriage at the back of the Bernina Express—the highest mountain railway in Switzerland. It looped, twisted, and tunneled through the high alps of Graubünden; past flower-filled meadows of grazing cows, ice-blue lakes, and glistening glaciers; and over the Bernina pass. The route is an incredible feat of Swiss engineering, and a thrilling ride in a normal carriage—let alone an open-air one! It’s of little wonder the railway was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008—it is a breathtaking journey.

Jaguar trekking in Guyana, South America with members of the Makushi Amerindian tribe also stands out. We were traveling by dugout canoe through the jungle by day, cooking on an open fire and trekking by night, and then sleeping in hammocks under the dense canopy, lulled to sleep by an orchestra of insects and howler monkeys.

What fuels your passion for travel?

I feel there’s too much emphasis on material items these days. People would be better off spending time and money seeing the world, immersing themselves in new cultures, and gaining new experiences and a sense of adventure. As the world continues to globalize, I feel greater cultural sensitivity is increasingly important. Henry Miller wrote: “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things.” Some of my greatest experiences in life have happened when I’ve gone out of my comfort zone while traveling—backpacking around Japan, dogsledding through Russia in the winter, and powerboat racing in the South Pacific. One thing is for certain: the more I travel, the greater my wanderlust.

Explore Europe's storied waterways and railways with Teresa Fisher on a National Geographic expedition.