In her memoir "A Stitch of Time: The Year a Brain Injury Changed My Language and Life" (Simon & Schuster, $26), Lauren Marks recounts her brain aneurysm and how aphasia affected her life. "At the time, I was an actor, director and Ph.D. student living in New York City," she says. "I was 27 years old and had largely lost my abilities to speak, read and write. I was a foreigner in my native tongue." For more information on her book, check out her website at www.astitchoftime.com.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. I'm told I visited Mexico as a child, but I have no memory of that vacation. The first trips that made strong impressions on me were to my mother's hometown in a somewhat rural part of northeastern Montana. I was born in Hollywood and raised all over Los Angeles and, as a city kid, my world had to be necessarily small. Too dangerous to wander off. But while visiting my grandmother in Glasgow, Montana, I was given a lot of autonomy. I could ride my bike to the grocery store, to the video rental place, to Woolworths. When the fair was in town, I was allowed to go by myself. That was just all groundbreaking stuff for me. Also, there was snow in the winter and I never saw that at home. I loved it.
Q. What is your best and/or worst travel memory?
A. In the summer of 2007, I was with some friends touring a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. On a night off from our play, we went to do some karaoke in a local dive bar. But while I was performing onstage, I collapsed. An aneurysm had ruptured in my brain. After I woke up from my emergency brain surgery, I was told I had acquired aphasia. Now this is easily the worst vacation memory I have, because of how close to death I was and because the lasting effects of this injury are still being felt directly in my life. In a very strange way, though, this is also one of my best vacation memories, too.
Undergoing this massive medical event granted me a lot of perspective. While it abruptly changed the course of my life, so many great things came from it too. I was able to enjoy language in the way I had as a child -- full of wonder. I learned some hard-fought lessons in resilience and even wrote a memoir about this. And all the best things in my life right now -- my husband, our baby, the closeness I have with my family and friends, the people I've met, the places I've been and the very existence of the book itself -- in some way or another, all of these things came as a result of the brain injury. To be clear, I would never want to repeat this experience. But if I were given a chance to just erase this injury from my life, to go back to the person I was before it, I absolutely would not take it.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Honestly, my answer to this question is going to be a bit arbitrary because my favorite place is, in fact, many places. The list would include spots in France, Italy, Turkey, Japan, Costa Rica, North America. ... But for the sake of brevity, I'll just say The West Highlands in Scotland. I love it there.
Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. My husband and I recently visited an area called Loch Etive, in the town of Taynuilt. We chose it because we didn't have a car. It was isolated enough for real countryside, but close enough to rely on public transport. I'd recommend some island hopping and distillery tours. And try to come in the tiny window of time in which you don't have to wear heavy coats, but not be eaten alive by midges. It occurs to me how strange that my praise for one of my favorite destinations also comes alongside a caution against bugs! Maybe that's not fair. You might like bugs!
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
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A. There are too many to choose a favorite, I'm afraid. But I spent a lot of time in five cities while I was writing my memoir. I had a certain love for all of them and am grateful for the ways they shaped me: Edinburgh, Los Angeles, New York City, London and Beirut.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. Beirut! This was an odd one since I never would have expected that, from the images I'd seen on TV. But the landscape -- the sea, the mountains, even the shrubbery -- all looked so much like Southern California. Also, there were big plastic surgery billboards on the side of the highways and a lot of women in town noticeably had work done, with the skimpy outfits to showcase that. English was spoken widely. American dollars were accepted anywhere. Great food, great music, great conversations. On a rooftop bar on a Friday night, this place could easily be mistaken for L.A.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. New Zealand, Brazil and Sweden.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. EpiPen. Food allergies can be very inconvenient while traveling.
(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.)(c) 2017 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.