Author Interview – meet the new voice of Gen Y backpacking
July 7, 2016
Meet S. Bedford, author of “It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker”. A no holds barred glimpse into the mind of a Gen Y backpacker.
If you follow me at all, especially on Facebook and Goodreads you know I am a reader! There are book lists and reviews a plenty. Well, I recently stumbled across a fellow travel blogger who had just released a book on her travels. Boy was I impressed. Not only does she capture the internal voice of a backpacker in a way that anyone who has done any travelling will relate to, but she also created a fun and interesting read that encapsulates the humour of the gen Y generation, even for those who aren’t big on travel.
So without further ado, I want to introduce you all to S. Bedford.
Bedford was born in Toronto and has backpacked over 50 countries in the last decade. She’s the Indie travel columnist for Outpost Magazine and has been published in New Internationalist Magazine and Dreamscapes Magazine, amongst others. Her goal was to have a book published by her thirtieth birthday; she made it by two weeks.
Tell me a little about yourself, what is your favourite travel style and how long have you been travelling for?
I’ve been backpacking regularly since I dropped out of first-year journalism school. I’d describe my travel style as whimsically spontaneous—which is a fancy way of saying I hate planning. While it’s often resulted in impulsive adventures, it also means my routes resemble less of a sensible A-to-B course and more of a spider accidentally crushed into the map.
At what point in your travels did you decide to write a book? What motivated you to finally put it all down on paper?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I grew out of wanting to be a Mr. Sketch scented marker, and my embarrassing, terrifying and ridiculous misadventures during my round-the-world trip, with my infuriatingly perfect friend Sara, seemed like ideal fodder for a book. I began going through my travel journals and writing the first draft about 18 months after I returned. The hardest part was being open with the audience—revealing my insecurities, shortcomings, mistakes and, ah risqué escapades. I ultimately decided to be completely honest and worry about it after publication. Incidentally, I ended up censoring my parents’ copy with a box cutter and liquid paper.
Tell me some more about your love of travel. Is there one moment, a memory, that drives you to keep travelling?
Dancing in a funeral ceremony in a Bornean longhouse amidst human skulls and animal sacrifices was one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. The human skulls are the remains of the deceased’s relatives; if the heads haven’t decomposed sufficiently for exhumation, coconuts with sharpie’d faces are used as stand-ins. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the traditional dance moves so I think I did something like The Time Warp instead.
What is one weird travel tip you picked up on the road?
Overnight buses are often kept frigid as a method of reducing the spread of germs (so I’ve heard, anyway—although with such plunging temperatures it’s amazing everybody doesn’t awaken with pneumonia) so always bring an extra hoody and some socks. In fact, there’ve been times when I just brought my entire sleeping bag… but then again, I’m a wimp.
Do you have any advice to those who always wanted to travel but haven’t quite got there?
The biggest challenge is promising yourself that you’ll go. Everybody’s terrified before their first big trip—that they aren’t adequately packed or prepared, that they’ll get sick or hurt, that they’ll be robbed or make mistakes, that they’ll feel scared and alone. While there are always unforeseen obstacles, there are also unexpected opportunities, and the key to being a successful backpacker is to be adaptable. All travellers (novice and seasoned) make errors. But hey, those are the plot twists that create the best stories.
It seems like you have learned a lot from your travels. Is there a stupid mistake that you will never make again?
I nearly got kidnapped when hitchhiking in Mexico. I knew what was happening as the situation unfolded… but was reluctant to jump out of the truck because I thought accusing somebody of trying to kidnap me was “rude”! It was the only time my Canadian politeness almost got me killed. Fortunately, I was travelling with an American who had no qualms with “rudely” yelling at the driver to stop while leaping out of the moving vehicle. In short, listen to your gut—and if it’s telling you to tuck and roll, forget the rules of decorum and get out!
Sounds terrifying! I remember struggling myself, to balance the etiquette of doing what feels right vs being polite in cultures different to my own. Tell me a little more about the book itself, what do you hope readers will get from the book?
Glowing Instagram accounts misleadingly suggest that travel is glamorous and that backpackers are these intrepid, stoic, cultured individuals who have the directional sense of migratory birds and can construct a lean-to out of a clothespin and a panty-liner. It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker exposes travel’s awkward side and shows that if a neurotic, underprepared loser like me can do it, anybody can.
The book is straight up funny but it's more than that, what is this book about beyond travel?
Many budding wanderlusts have this notion of “finding themselves” out there—of discovering some clandestine wisdom that reveals the meaning of life. It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker explores the idea that you’re capable of more than you think—and that you can imbue meaning into life however you choose.