STORY : ON THE ROAD… TO PUBLICATION
A lifetime of travel adventure – a collection of captivating short stories to inspire wanderlust
Wanderlust struck me on my very first travel adventure as an unworldly eighteen year old. I took the night ferry across the channel from Dover to Calais and, from Paris, feeling very intrepid and sustained by just a camembert baguette and a bottle of cheap red wine, I travelled on a slow train (no high-speed TGV in the 1970s) down through France to start a summer job waitressing in the French Alps.
Since then, there have been many adventurous trips to places much further afield; some for work purposes, and others made only when holidays allowed. Now in retirement, I’m playing catch-up with all those missed places still languishing on my inexplicably ever-growing bucket list (and I thought the world was a finite place!). However, like many others during the pandemic, I was forced to put travel plans on pause for a while. So, to ease the pain of having no trip on the horizon, I replaced travel with writing about it. This is the story of how my book, Travel Takeaways: Around the World in Forty Tales came into being.
Travel always leaves some indelible impressions in our minds from particular encounters, places, or people, and it was these stories that I wanted to retell.
Initially, I started writing up my travel memoirs in order to relive some of my own adventures of the past forty-seven years. Travel always leaves some indelible impressions in our minds from particular encounters, places or people and it was these stories that I wanted to retell. I didn’t have travel notebooks or Dictaphone tapes from those times to fall back on. So to help with recall I used notes scribbled in the margins of my old guidebooks, fading photographs, passport stamps, and some rather esoteric souvenirs – why in the world did I carry home a lump of volcanic lava from Mt Etna or a rusty can-opener given to me on an Israeli kibbutz? But they were invaluable. Using these memory jogging aids I somehow managed, and the result is a collection stories each encapsulating a special memory that I have taken away from my most treasured travel experiences.
I’ve surprised myself by the range of stories that have surfaced after decades of deep sleep in the valleys and crevasses of my senior grey matter. Some fall into the category of the quirky encounter: a face-to-face meeting with an orangutan in the rainforest of Borneo; a stint of teaching English for gastronomic purposes on an Indonesian atoll; tea with an oracle-uttering carpet seller in Turkey. Others have an air of poignancy about them: a conversation with one of the last remaining traditional woodturners in Toledo; a lockdown reminiscence of the rich social fabric of Italian life experienced while living in Rome. And some are recollections of scary moments: an inexplicable fright in the night on the island of Crete; a becak ride into the shadow puppet underworld in Java.
What I’ve learned along the way is that there are adventures to be had on the small trips to unfamiliar places close to home as well as on the big ones that involve going halfway across the globe. And as I write in the introduction to Travel Takeaways, such adventures offer the opportunity, ‘… to experience not only what is new and unfamiliar in the world but also to learn about oneself in that world.’ This is at the heart of most of my stories. After putting my travel book together, I launched into a crash course to help understand the complexities and precariousness of twenty-first century publishing. Self-publishing my book was an option but then I found a small independent publisher willing to take a chance on me. But the story doesn’t quite end there as I plan to don my travelling boots again shortly. So, in another forty-seven years’ time, there might just be a sequel!
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Julie Watson is a retired teacher who now lives on the Isle of Wight where she has taken up river kayaking, teaches refugees as a volunteer, and invests a lot of time trying to understand the mysteries of cat psychology to help her deal with a recalcitrant rescue cat.
She also occasionally travels and writes about it! Travel Takeaways: Around the World in Forty Tales, her collection of travel memoirs, is published by Beachy Books and is available as print and e-book through the usual outlets. Here’s what an Editorial Expert at LoveReading.co.uk said about it: “…the author’s voice rings with authenticity as she evokes places, people and atmosphere in exhilarating detail. With each tale opening with an arresting image, or stop-you-in-your-track dialogue that transports readers to a place or situation … it’s impossible not to be hooked.”