Introducing Jules Torti, WWE’s Content Creator
Jules Torti is WWE’s dazzling content creator. She creates and spices up WWE’s itineraries, writes enticing e-blasts and blog posts. And yes, she is writing in the third person and interviewing herself! Jules is also the author of Free to a Good Home: With Room for Improvement, Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago and Been There, Ate That: A Candy-Coated Childhood. She has another title coming out in spring 2023: The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth. Jules lives with her wife on the 45th parallel in Lion’s Head, Ontario–halfway to the North Pole and (better yet) halfway to the equator. Pour something you love and pull up a chair for this casual chat about chimpanzees, how to eat a fried worm, Darn Tough socks and her love affair with the Galapagos and all things Africa.
What’s your story?
Well, I’ve been writing stories forever. I always say that I write about the best things in life–burgers, beer, beaches, books and birds (in no particular order). I’ve had a few distinct chapters in my life but they’ve all overlapped in the best way. For too brief a time, I volunteered at the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Uganda, editing and designing educational guides and colouring books for JGI’s Roots & Shoots program and the Dian Fossey Foundation.
I made breakfast for 27 chimps in the Congo for a while. Once upon a time I painted wall murals. I was a massage therapist for 17 years at some very bespoke spas like the Fairmont Royal York, Omni King Edward Hotel and Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa (a Relais & Châteaux property).
I took a dramatic career leap after my wife Kim and I sold our 1861 stone house (we sold it on Facebook no less!) and moved into our friends’ barn for a year. Our nearest neighbours were Olive the pig, seven horses and two barn cats. While we looked at 88 houses across Ontario in search of our sleeping giant in the woods, I took on the role of editor-in-chief at Harrowsmith magazine while writing design features for Our Homes and neighbourhood guides for the Canadian Real Estate Association. When I had planned on retiring from the editorial world to write a few more books and go for even longer walks on the beach, Wild Women presented an intriguing brand new blank page for me to write on.
What Wild Women adventures have you been on?
My first was Charms of Croatia–what an incredible wallop of coastline and cuisine! I was lucky to return to the Galapagos Islands on WWE’s Yacht Adventure with my wife and my sister-in-law–who says a trip of a lifetime can only happen once? (I was in the Galapagos in 2005). In June, Kim and I went on the Greek Goddess Sailing Adventure and imminently, we will be on the Tanzania Trek + Safari followed by Untamed Indonesia.
Where did you dream of travelling as a kid? What destination is on your mind now?
My Aunt used to have a board game called Saugatuck (it was similar to Monopoly). We played that game and Bee Gees records endlessly. I had no idea that Saugatuck was an actual place (in Michigan) until a few years ago. So, now I kinda want to go there–it’s known for its vibrating arts scene and beaches.
I was obsessed with everything Galapagos when I was tiny–before I could even properly pronounce the word. Every elementary school project I did somehow involved blue-footed boobies, vampire ground finches or Darwin and the Beagle. I was also very attached to Africa thanks to Dr. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. Though The Gods Must Be Crazy was a huge 1980’s spoof, the landscape rooted in my memory and was more accurately updated with Out of Africa. In 2008 I had a full circle moment visiting Karen Blixen’s home and museum in Karen, Nairobi “at the foot of the Ngong Hills” and met Dr. Jane!
The biggest destinations on my mind right now are Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and Dunia Camp (the only all women-operated safari camp in Africa), Tanjung Puting National Park (orangutans) and Komodo Island. I’m half-packed and scribbling down notes about bush babies, Arusha’s first and only craft brewery, frangipani essential oil Balinese massage and a spicy soup called Rawon Setan (and ‘setan’ means satanic!). I’m also doing a self-imposed antelope refresher for the Serengeti, trying to memorize the horns and rumps of reedbucks, bushbucks, kudus, dik-diks and klipspringers.
Despite having two trips ahead of me, It’s reassuring and energizing to keep places on the tangible horizon and the shortlist includes the car-free island of Holbox (Mexico), walking the Camino Portuguese this spring and Madagascar. Those lemurs!
Now for Barbara Walters favourite question (as posed to Hepburn): What tree would you be?
I’d be a few, actually. I love the unusualness of the sycamore and its mottled bark. I appreciate the whimsy of a willow, the quirkiness of the sausage trees found in Uganda and the resilience of the Baobab. Oh, and let’s not forget the bizarre monkey puzzle tree! My forest kinda reads like my resume–a total mix of the unexpected.
What “take-home” recipe has been inspired by your travels as a reminder of a place you’ve been?
It’s not much of a recipe but when I lived in Uganda for four months I was a sucker for the Stoney Tangawizi (a brand of spicy ginger beer) and vodka. I have a reputation for seeking out weird beers (lobster-flavoured, peppercorn beer, etc.) and eating atypical things like fried grasshoppers, goat testicles, piranha, and termites doused in fire ant hot sauce. I don’t tend to duplicate these particular flavours at home. Kim and I make a point of ordering strange pizzas around the world and replicating those instead. Favourites have included duck + wonton pizza with hoisin sauce (a Shanghai secret), banana and ham (a Congo go-to), fried egg with ghost pepper oil (Dominican) and a Halifax classic– “Thanksgiving pizza” slathered in gravy, topped with turkey, stuffing and sage with a cranberry sauce dipper.
In the back pages of my recent memoir, Been There, Ate That: A Candy-Coated Childhood, I added a To Do/To Eat/To Drink list (a.k.a.: my version of a 5-year plan) that includes butter tea, coca leaves (preferably in Bolivia), a proper clambake like they do in the movies (hopefully on Cabbage Island, Boothbay Harbor, Maine) and a flying fish sandwich in Bequia among other things. Everyone should have a to-eat list because that’s what fermented shark and pawpaw is all about!
Fun thing: In a grateful nod to How to Eat Fried Worms (one of my coveted books as a kid during my early foodie days) I created an exclusive fried worm recipe AND a comprehensive Tasting Notes section of all the questionable things I’ve eaten from numb + spicy pork in Wuhan, China (in which I lost sensation in my tongue for 20 minutes) to cod cheeks to civet shit coffee to crocodile pizza to, well, I can’t give away too many edible secrets!
Favourite go-to trail snack?
My go-to all of the time is trail mix. The kind with the Smarties and not too many raisins. I love Clif Bars too–Sierra Trail Mix, Coconut Chocolate Chip but never those protein bars made out of 100% dates, though, oddly I love dates on their own or in date square form! Most often, I am without a snack, starved, parched and ready to faint.
Three things you can’t live without when you’re on the road…
Q-tips for sure. If I realize I don’t have lip balm I start licking my lips like a rabid dog. And books–I’ve dragged Kim around to so many hostels and hotels looking for paperbacks because I read my stash too quickly. Soon I’ll have to learn German or Dutch because that’s what dominates the trader shelves in so many countries. I know, I know. Kobo. Kindle? I’m a stubborn purist and will happily eat up backpack real estate for books and Q-tips, always.
What name brand do you live by?
After walking 920km on the Camino de Santiago, I am totally committed to Darn Tough merino wool socks. You can wear them for seven days and as promised, they are stink-free. I like my Jimmy Chin socks too. The Osprey 30L Tempest fits as snug as my favourite pair of jeans and I’m on my fifth pair of La Sportiva Bushido II’s. You can lace up a brand new pair and strike off on a 20km hike without any hotspots.
What was your most memorable family trip or what triggered your love for travel…
Our first family ‘plane’ trip was to Freeport, Bahamas. I felt so epicurean drinking a virgin Goombay Smash and ordering grouper. To earn our newbie traveller badges, my sister and I had our hair braided on Xanadu Beach by a jolly woman named Mary. Insert sunburned scalps here. Memorable in the wrong way.
My mother certainly instilled the necessity for curiosity in my siblings and I (my dad instilled the need for edible perks like footlongs and drippy ice cream cones).
We went on countless road trips along the eastern seaboard–my mom is still a wizard with trip itineraries. My childhood was made incredibly richer by tromping around conservation areas, coastlines, petrified forests, bird sanctuaries, lighthouses, cemeteries, botanical gardens, odd museums, libraries, antique shops–it was an eclectic mix but it was always about “experiencing new.”
My grandmother also had every single National Geographic since 1914 or so (in addition to over 30 encyclopedia sets) so my early travels to Papua New Guinea and Zanzibar were courtesy of her library, cross-legged on a rainy day with a bag of Cheezies and a warm cream soda. I met Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey there too.
Favourite travel memoir?
I insist that everyone reads everything by Alexandra Fuller–especially Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is another necessary read. I have an entire shelf of African memoirs—I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann is a pure heartbreaker. I would also push West With the Night by Beryl Markham, Adventures in Solitude by Grant Lawrence, French Milk by Lucy Knisley, Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas, Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris, Apron Strings by Jan Wong, Bicycling with Butterflies by Sara Dykman, Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui. I used to write book reviews for The Vancouver Sun and mags like Cottage Life so, this is a hot button topic for me!
Favourite places in the world?
La Digue, Seychelles. Zanzibar’s Michamvi Coast. Siwa Oasis, Egypt. Murchison Falls and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. Plitvice National Park, Croatia. Hydra Island and Santorini, Greece. Muxia, Spain. Lake Mývatn, Iceland. Quebec’s Ice Hotel. Osoyoos, BC. Lighthouse Caye, Belize. Chinese Hat, Galapagos. Sint Maarten. Fogo Island. Cobh, Ireland. Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. I need more paper!
Want more? Here’s 8 things you probably didn’t know about Croatia from dung beetles to dancing queens. If you need confirmation on why you should go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip twice (insert Galapagos here), you can read about that here.
Be sure to tag along with me in the Land Rover and outriggers in Tanzania and Indonesia on Wild Women’s community page on Facebook in the coming weeks!