We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Carpenter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
When I think about risk, I think about Travel. If it wasn’t for the teacher’s assistant who talked me into leaving the country for the first time on a study abroad trip to Guadalajara in college, I never would have discovered that writing for travel could be a thing. If I hadn’t taken the leap a few years ago traveling solo for the first time, (stumbling my way through meeting strangers and keeping track of myself on my own in San Diego,) I wouldn’t have found the exceptional grad schools there for anthropology. In an era plagued with disconnection and uncertainty, traveling can not only bridge humanity, but also reveal to us that we have the capability of navigating the unknown. And as the industry continues to change to make travel more accessible to everyone, may our risks become more graceful.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I was recently editing food-industry articles (for Best Served Podcast) when a particular chef’s epiphany gave me pause. “We need to get back to not only telling people why we do what we do but also reminding ourselves why…why we are still persevering through one of the most tumultuous times,” said Chef Marvin Kinney, who is working tirelessly to break ground on his Detroit-style pizza joint in Reno.
After Kinney’s story went live, I took some time to sit with this question. Not unlike the meme’able “how it’s going” and “how it started,” I worked backward to recall my career—remember my why. Pandemic life has me wandering like a college kid and salvaging sandwich bags like a grandma. But by some grace of 2Pac-like gods, I made a dime out of nickel and managed several recent (safe) trips, most by road.
One trip found me in Farmington, New Mexico experiencing Navajo cooking by a talented and humble chef family (Pioche Food Group). Why did I go? Because I wanted to support indigeneity. Seven months prior, I wrote 30 restaurant backstories for a local cookbook without a byline. Why did I do it? Because if I could play one small part in keeping the legacies of restaurants alive, especially now, sign me up.
Years before, I stuck around at a corporate travel job although I had vowed to never succumb to office-life. Why endure? The bewilderment of sales strategy and a lesson in globalization has proven priceless. It was the first job to offer me a salary and free up working nights, weekends, and holidays at restaurants for decades. Why so long? Restaurants take in office-protesting misfits and hard workers from every culture. The night hours allowed me to freelance on the side, and put myself through school.
The school job (R.I.P. The Market) came after living in (aforementioned) Guadalajara, Mexico via study abroad, left with 59 cents to my name. My mom was doing my laundry, and I couldn’t have foreseen the hustle-life about to unfold. All I knew was: I cherished the nopales and cobblestone streets in Mexico; and after graduating, the ohana and rainbows that surrounded me during an extended stay in Maui; since, the rare tour through China, shenanigans in Miami and the Bahamas, and fleeing to the beach cliffs of San Diego and back again as of late.
Perhaps my why isn’t really about the dream writing job. But the love for food, and family that circled me from working in restaurants to writing about them. Finding a way to fly or drive on pennies for the sake of forming connections across zip codes. And as I sit here today, like a broke college kid, with my mom still doing my laundry—the risk in why I do what I do in my career is worth the reward that comes from seeking travel, uplifting culture, and staying the hustle—the rest will figure itself out, it always does.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Along that trip to discover local food in Farmington, I first stopped to rest in Pagosa Springs for two nights after pushing through a five-hour drive from south Denver. What I encountered there scratched an itch like leaving state lines, while capturing so many things that make Colorado great—well worth the drive with any lucky visiting friend. The cascading hot springs are an obvious and most common reason to visit Pagosa (which were walk-in or reservation-only depending on covid precautions). But it was the stay I found that really impressed.
The Nightingale is a motel that was fully remodeled in a sleek, black exterior and mid-century modern interior, with notes like checkerboard bathrooms and exposed Edison lightbulbs. Check-in is touchless, by keypad on your door. And the cherry on top is that in lieu of a lobby, the owners (who used to build Hollywood movie sets) transformed the central space into a vintage speakeasy, the Neon Mallard. It’s become a living room for locals and travelers—a design-envy parlor to note—with flamingo-papered walls and velvet chairs with multiple themed rooms to hide away. A best night calls for: a charcuterie board, then take an Old Fashioned out to the patio and sit with the bonfire, and finish off with a port or custom digestif. Your room is steps away, where you can cozily contemplate hitting the springs the next day, walk the gift shops along Main Street, or just sit with the mountain views at the speakeasy all over again.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The gratitude starts with my mom, and the journal she gave me at age 10 that kicked off a lifetime of sitting with a pen; and to my dad, may you rest in adventure, for teaching me about the poetics of sinking, knowing I would always swim. Mr. Siekmeier, you’re still the reason I became a journalist and remain in pursuit. Thank you for believing in me Angie Langen, through the boot camp in business travel that forever broke my writer’s block. To that one magazine, for stepping aside so I could open the platform to chefs and industry uprisers. Best Served and CHOW, I’m grateful to have played a part in your vigilance to give a voice to our hospitality heroes.
Thank you Dr. Carlos Medina, for investing in me, and your students, reminding us you do it all because you ‘help the people who will help the world one day.’ Dr. Moore, your time in teaching about navigating through transitions is invaluable, and to all of the brave souls out there who are willing to share in the health of our minds. Thank you for recommending me Erica Buehler, you revived my worth and I’m lucky to be on this ride with you. I’m grateful for new friends (like Shoutout), and to the ones I have yet to meet who are about to take a chance on me. And, no matter how much whiskey or self-loathing I try to pour on it, thank you to that little pilot light that stays flickering inside me.
Website: www.anthro-beat.com (coming soon)