If you’re interested in who’s hiding behind the shades and under the helmet in all those cycling photos, and you want to know why I’m writing this website, read on!
I never set out to write a book or blogs about cycling to Greece. I wanted to make the most of a summer with my fiancé and to create the best wedding party possible for family and friends on the budget we had.
Towards the end of our trip, however, the idea of writing a book sprang into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. There was simply so much we’d experienced, I wanted to record it to help me process what had happened if nothing else.
So far, the writing journey has been much more difficult than pedalling across Europe. I’ve sifted through pages of journal notes, photos, videos, and memories. I’ve bombarded Matt with so many questions he’s taken to disappearing into the bedroom whenever I’m anywhere near my laptop.
But it’s good to do new things, right?
When we left London to cycle across Europe, there was so much we didn’t know, from how to secure our bikes on ferries to how to barter with Greek wedding suppliers. But each day we got up and pedalled into The Unknown and each day we tumbled into bed feeling blessed for blood having pumped so vigorously around our bodies and for having survived and learned from (in some cases) our experiences.
I’m not sure writing is making me feel quite as alive or grateful at the moment! It feels as if I’m sat on a loaded bike at the foot of a mammoth mountain, already a little tired from having ridden over a few hills already. I’ve learned to use Scrivener (a word-processing program for writing), have thrown myself into the minefield of website building (something I hadn’t realised comes with writing a book), and have read and watched dozens of blogs, articles, and videos about the craft of writing. But this next challenge – improving my writing so that people want to read it, building an audience/following, getting a book published … this mountain seems much steeper than any other and with a summit that’s permanently behind clouds.
For me, one of the most difficult and cringeworthy things about a travel memoir is having to be in the story myself. Having to write an About page for this website is just as disconcerting but at least it’s shorter.
Please don’t judge me too harshly. There’s more to me than these words. But if you do want to help me improve or offer any constructive feedback about the website, please get in touch.
With that said, let me raise my shades and lift my helmet …
I hope not to be defined as being this or that other than perhaps what I may appear in a given second on a given day. Anything else would make me mannequin-esque, incapable of changing, adapting, or learning. (This may well discredit further things I write).
I hope I can figure out how to give back to the world before I’m no longer in it.
I hope I don’t go utterly crazy writing a book. Then again, the Chesire Cat wasn’t all there and he still smiled a lot.
A big influence
My mum and her career as a palliative care nurse have greatly influenced my outlook on life and desire to live as many lives as possible.
Travel. I’m interested in how other people live and how the world looks and feels when you move to a different part of it. Curiosity (and coffee) lurs me around corners.
Mountains. They give you perspective, nice views, and ski runs. I’m not as keen on walking down them.
Dancing. Preferably barefoot on a beach, next to a campfire, under the stars and to the strumming beats of a guitar. Otherwise, to salsa music, songs I can sing along to, or to anything that makes me want to prance around like Billy Elliot.
I also love calf massages from my husband.
Places I’ve lived as an adult for anywhere between 4 weeks and 5+ years
– Edinburgh, Scotland: Student halls and private flats with rats.
– Zapallal, outskirts of Lima, Peru: I was 19 and hoping to make a small difference to the lives of orphans but they were better at teaching me about happiness than vice versa.
– Oaxaca, Mexico: 20 years old with a different group of volunteers. Street children who you’d think had little to smile about put the biggest smiles on our faces.
– Vienna, Austria: Near some dodgy bars and a police station. I got locked out twice. The first time I had to pay almost a month’s rent to a locksmith and cried when he left; the second, a musician coming home from a gig let me sleep on his and his girlfriend’s living room floor until my flatmates were back from their respective nights out.
– Salamanca, Spain: My Spanish flatmates introduced me to tortillas and the Spanish culture of not going out until most English people would be coming home. (Apparently, the “lateness” of Spanish culture stems from when Franco moved Spain’s clocks ahead one hour in order to be on the same time as Germany in the Second World War. The poor Spaniards should be on Greenwich Mean Time, not Central European Time!)
– Kufstein, Austria: The fairytale “Pearl of Tyrol” where I tried to wear a dirndl as often as possible and feared getting told off for not separating my rubbish correctly.
– Barcelona, Spain: The bathroom had a shower directly over the toilet so everything inside the room got soaked, including the toilet roll if you forgot to move it. But the apartment was near a park where people danced salsa on Sunday afternoons which put a big smile on my face.
– Liverpool, England: A brief sojourn while teaching at the university but it was long enough to notice how much Liverpudlians like to have a good time and how the local girls love wearing orange face powder.
– Reggio Calabria, Italy. The mafioso southern Italian city where my bike got stolen twice in three years and I’d sometimes see burnt-out cars on the way to work. But the local fruit and veg shop always gave me huge bags of fresh basil for free, I frequently ate reasonably-priced six-course meals, and my landlord insisted I accept a bottle of red wine whenever I paid the rent (which had to be in cash).
– Bintulu, the island of Borneo: Due to a lack of small apartments, I had to rent a three-bedroom semi-detached house which I shared mainly with geckos and thousands of ants until Matt moved in. The house was on a housing estate but one morning I walked out to find a chicken on the roof of my car. It was of marginal significance given the cobra that had taken up semi-permanent residence in one of the schools I worked in.
– Nilai, Malaysia. Matt was reluctant to live on the 19th floor of a building called “Sky Bungalow” because he said it looked too much like a hotel. He quickly settled in though, lamenting the lack of a pool and gym in any place we’ve lived since.
– Nice, France (current hangout). The French Riviera. The Dream. But we never eat out because it’s too expensive and the sun doesn’t get round to our side of the building until late afternoon so between October and April I have to do star jumps regularly throughout my writing days to keep warm. Then again, I feel the cold about ten times more than the average person.
– York, England. My mum’s house, on and off, over a period of about 20 years (so far). Her creaking attic floors bear the weight of anything I can’t fit in a suitcase, which is unfortunately quite a lot. I should have a clear-out but have the habit of convincing myself I may one day have a use for my 1980s cassettes, 1990s CDs, or dresses I wore when I was twenty.
Things that confuse me
Here are just three things on a never-ending list:
How shopping can be so popular.
Why nurses aren’t paid more.
A dinner date with?
(After a dinner with friends and family):
Anyone with influence over global environmental policies, Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Benedict Allen, Thomas Stevens (resurrected), Alistair Humphreys, Anna McNuff, Simon Reeves, Martin Lewis, a homeless person, a refugee, Melinda Gates, my grandparents (resurrected), and my great grandparents (they’d also have to be resurrected).
Perhaps not all at the same time although it would be fun to see how they interacted.
Plus dozens of others I’ll think of later.
Things not many people know about me
I was semi-arrested in Havana, Cuba. Well, I was escorted to the police station in a police car, had to give a statement in Spanish (I doubt it would have been understood), and made to hand over everything in my pockets.
I have partially webbed feet between my second and third toes. Apparently, my grandma did too.
There was a time at university when I thought it might be nice to have the job of the person who took guitars on and off stages at concerts. My parents didn’t encourage the idea.
I eat with my knife and fork the opposite way round to most people. I have no idea why this is.
I’ve sponsored children through Plan International since 2005.
Things I’ve done to earn money
Sold dirty mags to dirty men on Saturday mornings, washed hair, babysat (aka watched TV), walked dogs, delivered newspapers, collected litter, sold motorbike clothing accessories, photocopied scary-looking documents for scary people in a solicitor’s firm, anything my dad told me to do in his office one Easter holiday, waitressed at weddings, worn fishnets and stood next to a jazz singer on top of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh (didn’t know what I was getting myself in for but did earn £50), ran around a lot as a member of the Officer Training Corps (and quit after finishing the Military Training Qualification 1 on crutches and with a broken hand bone – Private Benjamin style), taken people out for dinner in an attempt to sell them “transport solutions”, taught English, chaperoned children on summer camps, sang and danced with puppets, mentored very sweet teachers who plied me with noodles, and invested money in things I don’t understand on the advice of my husband who says I shouldn’t trust him.
Things I’ve done to raise money
Dressed in a Peruvian costume and toured bars with a money box, helped organize a band night, served customers tea and scones, written an article for a local newspaper, sold popcorn door to door.
Ways I save money
More flasks than cups of coffee in cafes, more picnics than restaurants, spend less than I earn, follow advice from Martin Lewis.
Some things I like to do on rainy Sunday afternoons
Catch up with family
Play the piano (keyboard) and guitar – am currently not on track to become better at either as I don’t practise enough
Learn random things off YouTube
Rewrite popular songs with silly lyrics about friends, family members, or places I’ve lived.
Invent games. E.g. Who can make a contraption for getting oranges off the tree below our balcony?
Slob in slacks and switch off by switching on (documentaries, inspiring films, comedians, or programs everybody else watched last decade)
Pretty much anything with Matt
People often think I’m … but I’m more …
an extrovert … an introvert.
I love being around others but I also need time to myself, time in nature, time with books, and time with just my husband.