Author of ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ creates special memories with daughter through travel

By Kristina Houck

Jennifer Coburn was just 19 when her father died from lung cancer. He was 49 years old.

“I’m sad that he missed this part of my life,” said Coburn, a San Diego-based author, mother and wife. “I would have liked to have had more memories with him. I would have liked to have traveled with him.”

With a fear of also dying young, Coburn has always been determined to make lasting memories with her 16-year-old daughter, Katie. Set for release on April 8, “We’ll Always Have Paris” chronicles the pair’s four trips to Europe.

“I’ve always been nervous of dying young and I’m getting around that age where my father died,” said Coburn, 47. “If I go young, I really just want to cram her mental photo album with lots of memories.”

Leaving dad at home, the mother-daughter duo embarked on their first trip to Paris and London in 2005.

“I was terrified because she was just 8 years old,” Coburn recalled. “I remember landing and thinking, ‘What have I done?’”

One of Katie’s favorite memories stems from this trip. She and her mother had slept overnight at Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris.

“There were cots all over the place,” Katie recalled. “You can stay the night for free if you work a couple shifts or you’re an author.”

The pair stayed in the “Writer’s Suite,” what they described as a small room with bugs in the sink and an old box of Ritz Crackers on the floor. Katie’s bed was a table with a yoga mat as a mattress. Her mother “slept” on a door, which was on top of a set of file cabinets.

“But she loved it,” Coburn said. “That was the thing that I really admired about Katie through all of the trips. No matter where we were and no matter what presented itself to us, she just saw the goodness in everything.”

Two days after returning from their three-week trip, the pair began planning their next adventure. In 2008, they traveled to Italy, followed by a trip to Spain in 2011. Last summer, they visited Amsterdam and returned to Paris.

“We’re so busy. We had soccer practice, then there’s homework. There’s such a treadmill of our suburban middle class existence,” said Coburn, who has published four novels and is a contributing author to four anthologies. “This has really forced us to leave our environment and be somewhere new and depend on just each other for everything.”

“We have such hectic lives at home,” added Katie, a junior at Patrick Henry High School. “We get along very well at home, and we love each other, of course, but we don’t really get to spend as much time as we’d like just together. The trips allowed us to just be with each other 24/7.”

While the book is centered on Coburn and her daughter’s trips to Europe, the memoir also references Coburn’s childhood in New York and shares memories of her father, Shelly Coburn. In his honor, she is donating the royalties from the book’s first 1,000 preorders to the American Cancer Society.

The mother-daughter duo hopes the book encourages readers to venture out into the world and make their own memories.

“If they want to travel but they are waiting for the right time, I hope that they will just say, ‘I’m going to find a way to do this. If she can do it, I can do it,’” Coburn said.

Traveling is doable, but you have to make sacrifices, Coburn noted. They used their frequent flier miles and brought big packs of granola bars.

“We had to choose between experiences or stuff. We took the experiences,” Coburn said. “We’ll eat Fiber One, and we’ll have a crappy kitchen from the ’70s and we’ll shop at Goodwill. But we’ll always have Paris.”

Hosted by Adventures by the Book, Coburn will discuss her memoir on Sunday, March 30, at 6 p.m. at St. Tropez French Bistro and Wine Bar. Address: 8935 Towne Center Drive, #110, San Diego 92122. Event cost: $35 per person (optional: add $16 for signed book). No pre-registration necessary.

“We’ll Always Have Paris” will be available online at and

For more information about Coburn, visit

For more information about the luncheon, visit