I have a quote pinned up in my writing room that says: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” St. Augustine (354-430).
I was 23 when I embarked on my first big trip with my then-boyfriend (now husband). We spent two months in Maui windsurfing in the days and sleeping in a cabin in the rainforest at night. Afterwards we flew to California, hired a van, and camped and hiked our way up to Vancouver, across Canada, and down the east coast of America, before eventually flying home from New York. On that trip our savings quickly dwindled, so our days revolved around hiking, cooking noodles on campfires, and keeping our minds busy. My husband learnt Spanish; I wrote.
When we returned home, I realised two things; firstly I wanted to find a way to make travel and adventure a part of our lives, and secondly, I wanted to be a novelist.
The travelling goal was easier to attain. We decided to be self-employed so that our schedules were flexible and we could work while away. My husband is a professional windsurfer and the creator of Bigsalty.com, so he can work wherever he wishes (as long as it’s windy!). I needed an income while I tried to establish myself as a novelist, so I set up a small business delivering events in secondary schools, which also allowed me some free time to write.
With work in place, we were then able to disappear off every winter for a month or two, taking our ‘offices’ with us. We have always travelled on a budget – so I’m very familiar with the inside of a tent and hostel bunk beds – but we’ve still been able to explore many countries, including Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, Fiji, Bali and the Philippines.
Whenever we’re away I keep a travel journal. In fact, the idea that sparked The Sea Sisters came from my fascination with travel journals. I love the colourful places they’ve been written, their pages thick with smears of sunscreen and grains of sand. I’ve often thought how intriguing and tempting it must be to read someone else’s journal. What an insight it would give you into who they are. With this in mind, I asked myself two questions that were to be the fuel for the story: Who could the travel journal belong to? And: who finds it and why? From there, the relationship between sisters Katie and Mia was born.
The Sea Sisters
Each of the settings within The Sea Sisters are places I’ve travelled to, so my journals proved to be useful research tools when I was back home and writing about far-flung destinations. When I take notes they’re not just about what a place looks like, but how it feels. I like to know how the air smells, which direction the wind blows in, where the sun sets, what sounds fill the nights. All of these details help bring a place to life.
I’m not a travel writer, but my writing is certainly inspired by travel. When I’m at home in the UK my life is very structured. For those of you who have read The Sea Sisters I’m a bit like Katie in that respect. Yet when I’m travelling I’m much more like Mia – I love to arrive in a new country with no idea where we’ll sleep that night, and let the trip unfold without an itinerary. For me, life requires a balance of order and chaos, freedom and routine, and travelling gifts me that.
I usually get the travel bug around September time, just when the UK nights begin to draw in. I’m not sure where we’ll spend next winter as yet, but I know my journal will be travelling with me.
Lucy Clarke is the author of The Sea Sisters, a Richard and Judy Summer 2013 Book Club read, published by HarperCollins.
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