Some people have a fixed idea of their calling from a young age. I never did. I ambled through life, fell upon a career in the civil service, made great friends, met my husband, and holidayed frequently – all endless fun. But there was something missing. To fill the void I took up numerous courses including French, art, law, pottery, personnel management, even sign language.
In April 1999, my husband and I made a decision that was to change my life irrevocably. We decided to take a year out and travel the world. We spent months organising, pouring over travel books to arrange a route, organising flights, selling our house, settling finances, arranging career breaks.
Finally, on 26th October that year, two days before we were due to embark, we held a leaving party. Friends and family gathered to celebrate, offering generous gifts of toiletries, mosquito nets, books (most of which would never fit into our already overloaded backpacks). It was on this night that a work colleague and fellow travel enthusiast handed me a leather bound journal to record our daily events. Little did I know, this journal was to become our most treasured travel companion.
I wanted to savour every moment of our trip and took copious. Photos that we still have displayed across the walls of our home years later, photos that recall memories of feeding alligators in the swamplands of Louisiana, cookery courses in Chang Mai, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
The beautiful black journal filled, we moved on to plain exercise books, reminiscent of old school days, each covered with pictures cut out from leaflets, brochures, tickets, magazines we had picked up along the way that depicted our journey; all of which became bruised and battered in our rucksacks.
Almost a year later, we returned home (much to the surprise of our parents who thought we had gone forever) and the routine of daily life took over. A combination of returning to work, moving into a new home, and later a baby arriving meant the travel diaries were lodged onto a bookshelf, left to gather dust.
One summer afternoon, after I laid my little one for to rest, I was tidying up the lounge and glanced absently at the bookshelf. Something caught my attention and I reached up and grabbed one of the journals, leaving it to fall open naturally. Once I started reading, I was hooked. The photos drew on memories, but in the diary I could smell spices in Kuala Lumpur, hear the street music of Bangkok, feel the thick heat that pervades the wonderfully clean Singapore, see the red earth of Australia. Before I realised, two hours had passed.
Realising the power of words, my love affair with writing began. I enrolled in yet another course, this time creative writing, and started writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Then, an avid reader for most of my life, I discovered writing fiction. And I’ve never looked back.