Like all good stories, mine began with a boy, a musician. We met at an open-mic night in an old dive bar in Montana when I was 19 years old and fell in love immediately. When he had to go back home to Chicago to make it work with his band, I traveled to Denver and volunteered for a year with Americorps, exploring the country in a 15-passenger van with other do-gooders. Next, I went to DePaul University where I studied abroad in India and then after graduation, I landed a job at a boutique luxury travel company as an itinerary writer. These experiences in my youth forever branded me with wanderlust—well, that, and a childhood spent marooned on a ranch in Big Sky country. The world is a big and beautiful place and I wanted to experience it all! Oh, and I married that boy!

As a young mom, I moved into the world of freelance—I cut my teeth writing advertorials for the Chicago Sun-Times and I wrote parenting articles for local and national magazines and websites. As a mom of three young boys, ages 1, 3, and 4, I  joined the Windy City Rollers derby league and not only competed but also, wrote bout recaps and skater stories for their website and press releases for media outlets.

Now, as a professional travel and adventure writer, my career has brought me to nearly 40 different countries. I traveled solo to Hong Kong; I l tried surfing in Bali, El Salvador and Costa Rica; I swam with whale sharks in Mexico, nurse sharks in Belize, and manta rays in Hawaii; I met women tea pickers in Sri Lanka and Maasai warriors in Kenya; I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim; I tried salmon-flavored vodka in Istanbul and fermented shark in Iceland; I rode a camel through part of the Sahara Desert to spend the night in a remote camp in Morocco; I rappelled in an erosion crater in Israel; and I brought my boys to Japan and Peru.

And, because my husband, my boys and I have made a home in Chicagoland, when I was asked to write a guidebook on the city I love, it was a no-brainer. My book, PERFECT DAY CHICAGO, will be published on March 15 and I couldn’t be more thrilled to highlight 29 diverse neighborhoods. This book will be great for locals who rarely venture out of the loop as well as travelers visiting the city for the first time.