Educated at UCLA and at the Sorbonne in Paris and graduating with degrees in English Lit and French, Tammy Skinner has honed her craft of story branding for the past two decades. She got her first shot in “story selling” when working in Development for the Wyle/Katz production company at Warner Brothers. She then went on to write for the travel and film sections for the New Times L.A. weekly newspaper where she was also recommended by restaurant column writer, Marnye Oppenheim, for the newspaper’s emerging editorial internship program run by editor, Rick Barrs. Around this time, Tammy also wrote mini plays and performed as a cast member for the traveling professional theater company, Peace Quest, which was hired by schools to address hot topics. Bilingual and eager to travel back and forth to her beloved Paris, in 2004, Tammy secured a job with the French TV network, TV5Monde, in the marketing department. There, she created and wrote all the ad campaigns for the U.S. market. Tammy’s passion for words, metaphors, connection through stories and love of variety has led her to a prolific and ongoing journey through the waters of songwriting, playwriting, screenwriting, article writing and freelance copywriting for numerous businesses that hire her to capture their stories.
1. What’s your top 5 favorite places to travel?
My top spot is Paris, France for the romance, ambiance and the way it has of transporting you back in time and also of stopping time in many ways. I consider Paris an environmental embodiment of a wizard in that sense. I was born and raised in San Diego, CA and go back regularly to visit for all the fun offered in one place for all ages. Roller skating on the Mission Beach boardwalk then taking off a few steps around the corner to ride on the roller coaster at Belmont Park is my kids’ idea of the perfect afternoon. One of the most empowering moments of my life was hiking to the valley glacier, Exit Glacier, in the Kenai Mountains of Alaska which is 125 miles south of Anchorage in Seward.
I can’t emphasize enough the grounding feeling of not just seeing a glacier close up but touching it with your bare hands. If it’s serenity, beauty, raw power and beautiful beaches my soul is craving then the Big Island in Hawaii is where I daydream of returning again and again. There’s an authenticity there and more of a feeling of being one with the island rather than a tourist because it’s less crowded. From the lush landscapes and waterfalls to white sandy beaches and black lava volcanic landscapes -there’s just no other place that offers this many scene (and climate) changes to speak in Hollywood talk. On that note, my last favorite place to travel is actually my backyard in Sonoma County. Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen is where Jack London lived and wrote many of his most famous novels. It’s surrounded by beautiful vistas, vineyards, grassy meadows, Sonoma Mountain, rustic cottages and basically inspires my muse like no other. Then there’s the town square of Sonoma itself which makes me feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of some European plaza. The varied restaurants surrounding the plaza offer cuisine from countries like Portugal, Italy, the Mediterranean, Spain, France and more. It’s basically my version of Disneyland.
2. Name your favorite destination for enjoying a local food?
Paris, France without a doubt. There’ s nothing like eating in a bistro people watching while biting into a savory croque monsieur or buttery escargot. Give me a steak au poivre with a hearty red wine and I’ve died and guaranteed a trip to heaven.
3. What is it that you enjoy the most when you visit a new destination?
What I enjoy most when visiting a new place is definitely the food and I also love to people watch. Clothing is something I admire and I really enjoy watching how people dress and flaunt themselves down the runway of the streets where I travel. It’s funny because I never really knew this was something I took such pleasure in until it was taken away when we locked down for so long during Covid. That was a big revelation to me not only how much I love to self-express through how I dress but also how much I crave seeing others in their full expression.
4. What are your best practices regarding currency? Do you suggest wearing a money belt?
I absolutely 100 percent suggest wearing a money belt or a thin cross over bag that you can wear underneath your clothing. I suggest carrying money in the currency of the country you’re visiting and putting the exact amount in cash/change that you need for that day. Or if you’re feeling adventurous just bring along your debit/credit card as you can use it pretty much anywhere. Just make sure to confirm with your bank beforehand.
5. How do you get by with the language barrier?
I’m lucky in that I speak French and Spanish in addition to English; so most often if English isn’t spoken, I try French which has been helpful in many places. I would like to say that English is spoken everywhere but I actually found it so much easier to communicate in French when visiting European countries especially.
6. What countries would you avoid?
I wouldn’t suggest avoiding Italy as a whole, but I’d say that Rome, Brindisi and Naples were probably the three most stressful places I’ve ever traveled to. I was warned everywhere I went in Naples about the mafia. In Brindisi I was almost kidnapped and I found Rome to be uninspiring as well as having to always keep my eyes and ears open for thieves.
7. What airline do you like the most?
Air France because you feel you’ve stepped into France as soon as you are greeted by the airline hostess. The way the food is prepared and presented immediately reminds you to step into the moment and that life is about the journey not the destination.
8. What is your favorite film?
I have two favorites. My #1 recommendation and one that impacted my life in many ways is About Time, written and directed by Richard Curtis. It’s one of those movies you start out watching thinking it will be a predictable time travel movie but then WHAM it gives you an experiential lesson that I would have paid good money for if it were a weekend transformational workshop because that’s how much it changed my life for the better. I can’t tell you much about it because it would give it away but suffice it to say you won’t approach life the same way again. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you will become much more present to the people you love and the environments you find yourself in. My other favorite is Under the Tuscan Sun because it was written, produced and directed by Audrey Wells who created such a strong, independent and determined female character (much like Baby in Dirty Dancing) in Frances. She was someone that I could recognize myself in on screen for the first time. The protagonist travels to Tuscany after a divorce and ends taking a leap of faith when she buys an old house then renovates it (and herself in the meantime) inch by inch learning to create her own happiness. In fact, I pretty much credit this film with being the inspiration for me to move to my little piece of Tuscany here in Sonoma county 12 years ago. All these years later I’m married with two children and still creating the dream every single day.