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This week I’m featuring Sophie Smith, a travel memoir author!
I grew up in Australia, but my family always loved to travel, and I’ve visited around 45 countries at this point. I move countries quite a lot – I just moved to my fourth new “home” in four years! I always loved reading and writing – especially adventure stories – so publishing this memoir is a huge achievement for me. In my memoir, “Don’t Fall: Adventures in Love, Loss and Lead Climbing”, I write about the process of grieving, the challenges of traveling solo, and the pitfalls of falling for someone from another country.
Interested in connecting with Sophie? Email email@example.com!
Sophie’s memoir, “Don’t Fall: Adventures in Love, Loss and Lead Climbing,” is available in Kindle format through Amazon internationally and in paperback through Amazon US, UK, CA, IR, DE, IT, and FR!
How long have you been writing for? Why’d you decide to write a travel memoir?
I started a travel blog seven years ago so that I would have a platform to publish my writing, but my goal was always to write a proper memoir.
The writing process took about five years: I started with my journals, photographs, and correspondence from the year I spent backpacking around Europe and Asia and started developing them into a narrative.
It took a long time, and I had to take a lot of breaks because the content was very personal, and I was still working through a lot of the things that happened to me at that time.
It was very therapeutic – but also very challenging – to keep on top of my ego and insecurities while still trying to remain true to what happened. It feels like an immense achievement to have actually finished!
Do you have any tips for new travel writers/aspiring travel writers?
You might not know what you’re writing about when you start – that’s ok! A lot of the lessons we learn while traveling don’t become clear until a long time after we return home.
Be as honest as you can, but also be sensitive to those who feature in your story – they will have their own narratives of what happened and might find yours confronting.
It won’t be finished in one draft. Or two. Or twenty. Writing takes time.
Find people whose judgment you trust, and beg, bribe, and badger them into reading your manuscript and giving you feedback… and be prepared not to like the feedback. It’s part of the process.
Publishing houses are not necessarily interested in your precious travel story. That’s ok. Self-publication is super easy and very cost-effective.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started traveling?
How much it would change my life! I mean, I think I knew on some level that it would, or I wouldn’t have gone, but not the extent!
Why do you love to travel?
Because it promotes empathy and gives you perspective.
What’s your best and worst travel experience?
My best travel experiences are all tied to rock climbing – finding a perfect location with beautiful rocks and a fun group of people, and just camping out there for a few weeks to work on some projects… that’s my idea of heaven.
My worst travel experiences usually involve problems with visas, passports, or flights being cancelled (all these features in my memoir), but they’re always something to laugh about afterward!
Do you prefer solo travel or traveling with other people? Why?
I love traveling with one or two close friends, but I also love the people you meet when you’re traveling solo.
You need to be more open when you’re alone, and that appeals to me. However, traveling with a partner is always better when shit goes wrong…
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been to? Why?
New Zealand is probably my favorite place in the world. I lived there for a while when I was a kid, and I’ve been back several times to climb and travel… it’s just magical.
So green and rugged, with some of the best people you’ll ever meet. I also love how they have embraced the rich Maori culture in a much more authentic way than I’ve seen with indigenous cultures in other countries.
What’s your biggest travel tip?
Always pack half the clothes and twice the money that you think you’ll need. Always. No matter where you’re going.
Is there one specific thing you like to do, see, or buy in every place that you visit?
I like to learn four or five phrases in the local language. “Hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “do you speak English”, “how much?”, and “goodbye” are my go-to’s, and they go a long way when you’re navigating an unfamiliar place.
Is there one particular food that you’ve tried while traveling that you loved? What food was it and why do you love it so much?
I LOVE Thai street food. Give me a plate of $1 pad thai from a cart that I can eat off a banana leaf, and I’m in heaven! Street meat in South America was another favorite – it’s served on a stick!
It’s truly incredible that I haven’t been struck down with some terrible gastric illness, but there you go. I did get Nepali belly in Pokhara once from eating a salad, so I guess no good deed goes unpunished!
Plane or train? Train
Hotel or hostel? Hostels were my bread and butter when I was younger – actually, couch surfing was the real winner – but now I’m old and creaky I prefer a hotel room to myself.
City or nature? Nature…but I do love exploring a new city. Can’t beat the mountains though.
Popular site or off the beaten path? This is so loaded! Of course any self-respecting traveler is going to say “off the beaten path”, but I’ve been off the path enough to know that it’s not always comfortable – or safe! So I’ll take the middle, gently trodden, road.
Suitcase or backpack? Backpack for SURE
Fast travel or slow travel? Slow. I hate travel days, so I’ll stay put as long as I can in a new place.
Professional camera or iPhone photography? Never mastered the camera, so iPhones are a gift!
Warm or cold weather? Love skiing, but warmer weather is better for climbing and hiking… and dancing in romantic Spanish courtyards with handsome strangers 😉
All photos used throughout this post are taken by Sophie Smith.