GLOBAL OUTLOOK: Attorney sees the world with a wide-angle view

As a dutiful list-maker, Susan Leigh Brown gets a kick from checking off the next item on her to-do sheet.

As an avid traveler, however, she figures theres one list shell never finish.

The list of places Id like to visit is probably much too long to be completed by a full time lawyer whos pushing 50, says Brown, an attorney with the Schwartz Law Firm, P.C. in Farmington Hills.

Brown takes at least one major trip each year to destinations that have included Thailand, Cambodia, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Madagascar, all 50 states and each Canadian province except those that formerly were the Northwest Territories.

She most often travels with her mother, sister and assorted friends, so some of the decisions are driven by where others really want to go.

Between my mother, sister and myself, we take turns unless someone has a big birthday, in which case that person gets to select the next destination, she says.

While her mother loves tropical locations and rainforests, Brown prefers cities and art, which means shes apt to choose more developed places. She finds the United States and Europe hard to beat when it comes to beauty.

Because there are so many variables, Brown cant pick a favorite vacation, although her favorite place is London. She also has what she calls an inexplicable connection to Newfoundland, where she fell in love with the remote wilderness.

Other than London, Brown believes the coolest city is Istanbul, while the island nation of Madagascar is the most unique, and Italy has the best food. The most beautiful landscapes? Cambodia.

While shes enjoyed every place shes ever visited, Brown says those who appreciate American creature comforts will be disappointed in or bored with the deep jungle experience.

And another thing shed recommend avoiding if possible: The Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Who designs an airport to be shaped like an octopus? she asks. You walk forever, follow signs that tell you that the same destination is in two totally opposite directions, then you get on a train, to a bus, to walk across the tarmac in the rain to your plane and no one will help you if you speak English.

Her favorite hotels include The Oriental in Bangkok (Theres a reason its routinely listed as the best in the world.); Llao Llao in Patagonia for its amazing setting; The Park Hyatt in Chicago; The Prince of Wales in Niagara-on-the-Lake; and the Enchantment Resort outside of Sedona, Ariz.

Like any seasoned traveler, she is usually very cautious about thieves, which is why she makes sure her purses zip instead of snap shut, and are kept close to her body, with passport and some cash even further removed from the hands of pickpockets.

But once in Bologna, Italy, shed unzipped a pocket of her purse to take out her camera to photograph the two leaning towers there. When she felt her purse move, she realized her wallet had been lifted.

Luckily, her sister caught the thief an elderly women wrapped in shawls and a bundle to look like she was carrying an infant. She grabbed her by the arms and shook until Browns wallet fell out of the swaddling clothes. The woman and her younger partner got away before police could be summoned.

Another time, her $450 binoculars were stolen out of her suitcase at the airport in Rome. And one of her friends had her wallet swiped out of her backpack/purse in Prague.

Brown hates to shop, but does pick up local crafts at each location.

While she insists there are no bargains to be found anywhere in Europe, jade, emeralds, rubies and sapphires are inexpensive in Thailand.

Other favorites: wooden works of art in South and Central America, and sapphires of all colors in Madagascar.

Brown usually takes her 17 days of vacation time all at once so she can spend a good deal of time exploring one place. It works out well except for the piles of mail and 500 e-mails waiting for her when she returns.

But that doesnt stop her from planning her next journey. She loves to travel because she relishes the landscapes, architecture and natural beauty including wildlife of other lands. A birdwatcher by default, she likes adding new and unique species to her life list.

Next up is a trip to either tropical Borneo, which is largely untouched by the tourist trade, or a Scandinavian cruise, from which she could visit seven new countries. Browns 70-year-old mother wants to visit Borneo now and save Scandinavia for old age. But Brown and their travel companions are leaning towards the cruise.

Its never a pleasant decision between destinations because I want to go everywhere, said Brown before adding: At least everywhere that Im not likely to get killed!

By Jo Mathis

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