It began in a tropical thunderstorm.
Rain pelted down onto Singapore’s hot soil as my partner and I sat under a makeshift shelter in what was called “Singapore Bus Station”, but was really just a large pot-hole covered car park. We were just a few weeks into our round the world trip and we were adjusting quickly (if reluctantly!) to the unplanned delays and torrential rain typical of Southeast Asia. As I sat on a bench with my suitcase tucked between my legs, I watched the puddles grow, creeping closer to me. The rain wasn’t going anywhere and our bus to Melacca was already thirty minutes late, so I dug my notebook out of my bag and began to write…
Those words I wrote in rainy Singapore in October 2011 were the beginnings of Shy Feet, the title story of my recently self-published collection of short stories inspired by travel. These twelve short stories are all fictional, yet each one draws from an experience I’ve had or a place I’ve been, some from holidays and travels past and others from the last two years of permanent travel my partner and I have enjoyed as “digital nomads”, travelers who take their work on the road with them, thanks to the internet.
So, why do I travel?
Travel was something I already did, albeit a differently to now; I enjoyed work trips across the world, weekend city breaks with friends, snowboarding holidays in the winter and beach breaks in the summer – as many trips as I could squeeze in to a year’s allowance of annual leave. I was happy with this lifestyle and “my lovely London life”.
However, my partner, who I met snowboarding on one of these holidays, thought differently. Already location-independent since moving his life and freelancing business from his home city of Sydney to London, he was keen to exploit his lifestyle and travel more. It wasn’t long before he started to tell me that I could do this too.
Because I didn’t feel like anything was missing, it took me a lot longer to realize the potential of this lifestyle. Eventually, as I actively prepared to move away from my job as a corporate researcher and into a freelance career as a copywriter and blogger, I realized how being in control of my time would allow me to do many more things in addition to travel. Most importantly, I could write that book I’d always wanted.
But of course, deciding to write a book is not the same as actually doing it.
How did I write a book while traveling?
The same way you write a book when you’re not traveling. Just do it.
There is no shortcut to writing a book. There is only one magic action that you have to learn to do and that is sitting down and writing it. If you think about it, you can do this anywhere, you just have to make the time.
While some claim a regular “writing spot” or corner of your house to work at will help you establish that routine, I didn’t have that option. I knew I was going to have to work on this book in a constantly changing environment. While I planned the stories in Southeast Asia and Australia in late 2011, then started early drafts in the Netherlands and France over the summer of 2012, it wasn’t until we returned to Thailand in November 2012 that I really made progress.
Taking advantage of being in one place for more than a month I signed up to NaNoWriMo, an international non-profit initiative whereby budding authors are challenged to write 50,000 words (or more) of a novel or project during the month of November. This was the deadline I needed. And it worked. I walked into December with 53,545 words and fourteen short stories. Despite writing for over twenty years, I’d never actually finished anything so I cannot recommend NaNoWriMo enough if you are looking for a challenge that encourages you to get words on paper. I’m going to be doing it again this year to write the first draft of a novel.
This achievement was enough to encourage me to keep working and over the following six months as I traveled from Thailand to Malaysia to London to Finland, Sweden and Norway and then to Morocco and Brighton back in UK, I got stuck in to editing the stories so they were readable, or more important worthy of reading. I wanted my stories to be enjoyable to travelers and non-travelers and I wanted them to be about characters people will love and relate to. It’s not for me to say if I achieved this, but I dearly loved working towards these goals. That was the biggest surprise of this whole process; writing a book is incredible fun, and when this is the case, you’ll keep doing it, no matter the obstacles.
On writing, on traveling and on chasing your dreams…
Perhaps I’m making it all sound so easy. Truth be told, traveling the world while writing a book may seem like an obvious dream, but doing both wasn’t always a very dream-like process, in fact, some days felt like a nightmares when it came to working on the 40th draft of one story or formatting the book for ebook readers. But there were still wonderful moments and I certainly feel like I’ve achieved something to be proud of. I also have fond memories of laughing with my characters as I edited in Morocco, crying with them in Brighton and holding the paperback version in my hand for the first time here in Amsterdam. But honestly speaking, I now know that chasing your dream is never “dream-like”. Quite the opposite, it is almost always a long, enduring journey of hard work.
It’s only now that I’ve come out the other side, I can happily say that I wouldn’t want it any other way because after the thunderstorm must come sunshine… eventually.
Frankie is a writer and blogger from London who has been traveling since October 2011 with her Australian partner and too many vintage clothes. She documents her life and travels as a “digital nomad” on her blog As the Bird flies. In August 2013, Frankie published her first collection of short stories; Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel, it is a collection of quirky and contemporary fictional tales. Currently based in Amsterdam, you can find Frankie capturing daily moments of happiness on Instagram as @bushbirdie.
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