Virtuoso Life July 2019 Why I Travel: Patty Stegman

Why I Travel: Patty Stegman

Patty and Danny Stegman at Angkor Wat.
Patty and Danny Stegman at Angkor Wat.
Patty Stegman follows in her father’s footsteps to Paris and around the world.
Whenever she travels, Patty Stegman carries a small patchwork quilt of fabrics made from her father’s shirts and ties. “It’s a memento I hold on to because he inspired me to see the world,” says Stegman, 55. With her husband, Danny, 57, an ophthalmologist, and other family members and friends, the family and marriage therapist is nearly always heading somewhere fabulous from her New Jersey home. “My dad loved Europe, and France in particular, and that love was contagious because there’s nothing else that compares,” she says. To help inspire and arrange her adventures, Stegman has a standing appointment with Virtuoso travel advisor Jessica Levy.

I travel so I can stop, turn around, and look back at the view. Looking back informs what’ll happen going forward, and it gives perspective on how far you’ve come.

We like big group trips. We’ll often take our daughter, Natalie, who’s 26; our son, Glen, who’s 21; and their significant others. Every December we travel with 14 people. My brother and sister-in-law, their four kids, and those kids’ partners. You can definitely hear us coming.

Where have we gone? Oh, boy! Paris, Colombia, Italy, Brazil, Africa, Paris, Iceland, Turkey – did I mention Paris? I’m definitely my father’s daughter.

My husband, who’s from Venezuela, is a child of Holocaust survivors. His father fought in Israel’s War of Independence and had one of the first passports after Israel became a state. We recently visited Jaffa and felt such a powerful connection. Here we were walking on earth that my father-in-law helped create and defend.
Lunch at a private home outside Marrakech. 
Lunch at a private home outside Marrakech. 
Our travel advisor, Jessica, is a wizard. Dealing with 14 people’s plane tickets, visas, room bookings, and dinner reservations, and then getting us room upgrades with views overlooking the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Bosporus in Turkey, or Table Mountain in South Africa – I honestly don’t know how she manages it. Plus, we always get Champagne and chocolates in the rooms and a guide who somehow hits it off with everybody in our group. It’s not an easy feat!

As a therapist, I’d say the secret to group travel is respecting other people’s needs: Someone needs to be alone, leave them alone; two people feel like hiking, let those two hike. There’s something really wonderful about getting to know people morning, noon, and night and figuring out when they get grouchy, what makes them happy, what their rhythms are. We grow and learn together.

The best travel moments come when you can get involved and give back. In February, Jessica put us up at Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s South African safari lodge, and connected us with Pride ’n Purpose, which helps disadvantaged and impoverished people living next to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. It’s minblowing to see the changes and improvements they’re making in these communities.

The crazy times? In Iceland our driver veered off the road to avoid running over a bird, and then, when we pursued it, the bird projectile-vomited on us. My husband put regular gas in a diesel car on the way from Nice to San Remo, Italy, and the car broke down. I think that was the same trip where we had a family bread-throwing fight on a monotonous car ride through the South of France, and we all ended up laughing hysterically with bread in our hair. This is how memories are made.

I always have a small travel bag ready to go. There’s a Dopp kit with Band-Aids and medicines. I pack rice cakes and nuts from Trader Joe’s for when the airplane’s delayed. We have a couple of Uniqlo jackets that fold up tiny in case you need an extra layer. There’s a collapsible suitcase in there too, for when we overdo it on purchases.

Where next? Portugal in July and Panama in September. I haven’t been to Australia and New Zealand or Japan or India. And I’d love to go back to Africa.

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