Despite my whining about social media recently, there are many upsides to Facebook and Twitter and the like.
For me, entering a simple contest on Facebook hosted by United Kingdom author Gemma Thompson was one of those upsides. Being a part of A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone connected me with other female solo travelers across the world, and I have loved their stories and other stories they’ve written.
The book, available exclusively online, became a hit travel anthology in the United Kingdom, and this week, I’m happy to have Gemma is my guest. Gemma is now balancing new motherhood to her beautiful baby, Rosa, and a writing career, so I greatly appreciate her time.
Thank you, Gemma!
What inspired you editing the anthology?
On previous solo travel trips, I always packed books that could teach me a bit more about the area I was visiting, but were also travel narratives. I loved the idea of sharing someone else’s experience of a country, whilst I was having mine. However most of these books were written by men, and I wanted a woman’s perspective.
Were there surprises while putting it together?
I enjoyed reading all of the submissions, but some women’s stories (that feature in the book), took me by surprise by how emotional I got when reading them. These are extraordinary women. Brave, stoic and inspirational. They are also students, mothers, aid workers and TV producers. It was the women’s personal stories and backgrounds that captivated me just as much as their travel experiences. You can never judge a book by it’s cover.
What kind of diversity were you looking for to represent to your readers?
I wanted to hear from women of all ages and backgrounds. We all travel for different reasons. Whether it is to fulfill a lifelong dream, to escape and achieve a new perspective or just to have a change of scenery. What I love about travel is that plans will often veer off course, and usually for the better. It’s amazing what situation you can find yourself in, just because you pushed yourself that little bit further, or said ‘yes’ on a last-minute whim. As a woman travelling alone, it is empowering to feel your confidence grow, as you break out of your comfort zone.
What was the best feedback from readers that you received?
I’m going to quote Dr Wilson-Howarth, who writes for Wanderlust magazine. She reviewed my book by saying “This is a great anthology of tales from feisty females from both sides of the Atlantic that will amuse, inform, inspire, and maybe even horrify. I particularly liked Hayley Gislason’s observation “Travelling helped me with two things: forgetting about the things that don’t matter; and being grateful for the things that do.”
So I guess it’s two-fold – receiving some great feedback from someone I deeply admire, plus the underlying message in the book, as highlighted by Hayley Gislason.
Imagine you’re speaking to your baby girl Rosa when she is 17 years old and just on the verge of adulthood. What is the message about solo travel that you will want her to receive?
Oh, the thought of my baby heading out on her own terrifies me! But I did it, and you have to let them go. My advice? – Just book that plane ticket. Do your research, and always be respectful to the country you are visiting. Try new flavours and new experiences, swim in the sea and wear your sun factor. Most importantly, don’t forget to pack your ‘common sense head.’ (and please call Mum when you can!)
What project are you working on next?
I’m setting up a website which will include a blog, a community for people to share their travel stories, advice for solo travel and hopefully, guest bloggers. I’ve also written a piece for Matador Network (hopefully it will be the first of many) and I’m always on the lookout for more travel writing. This will also feature on the website. I’m also tempted to publish a printed version of A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone.
How can readers best reach you or follow your work?
Interested in reading more?
You can get a copy of the book for .99 cents on Amazon and iTunes.