Writer Wednesdays – Lance Leuven
Lance Leuven is yet another Brit with a flair for charm and a great sense of humor. But to him travel isn’t always about some far off exotic locale, great travel stories can be found in your own backyard and are just as rewarding and entertaining. Lance’s first book was a short ebook about his week exploring Cornwall and his new book Lance’s Travels – UK is about his tales traveling around the whole of the UK for a summer.
Writer Wednesdays would like to introduce you to Lance Leuven.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name’s Lance Leuven and I am the author of Lance’s Travels – UK. It’s my self-published account of a summer spent dragging a battered, old caravan around the UK. As I weave my way around the nation I pause to tell the stories of the various things I encounter, and the various scrapes I get into. It’s my first full-length book as my previous outing was just a free, mini-book about Cornwall, the UK’s south-western tip. I’ve also been blogging for a while now. The posts are a mix of previous travel stories and historical tales relating to my UK travels. I’m currently using the blog to share some of the stories scattered around the cutting room floor of Lance’s Travels – UK, so I guess it’s serving as an unofficial accompaniment.
How many countries have you visited?
Fifteen so far, I believe. So I’ve still got plenty to see, and that includes four continents (although I might give Antarctica a miss).
What is your favourite place and why?
Despite numerous enjoyable trips abroad one of my favourite places is actually Cornwall, hence the book. It may not be the most exotic of places but it has a warmth and charm unlike anywhere else I’ve been. It also has beautiful beaches, peaceful villages, rugged coastline and great pubs. Also, it isn’t too far from me if I want to escape for a quick trip down there.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
What is your most memorable travel moment?
I imagine most people answer this with something like “Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat,” “Bungee jumping over Bloukrans River,” “Camping beside the Grand Canyon” or “Trekking through the jungle for six days only to reach an Irish pub with an Australian barman.” But my most memorable experience isn’t one for the photo collection, although the image is etched clearly in my mind.
I was standing on the shore of Lydsefjord in Norway nervously watching the passing ships. It was mid-afternoon and I was in the middle of nowhere. My only companion on the lonely jetty was an old, discarded bicycle. My accommodation for the night was a good hour’s ferry ride away. And I was waiting for a ferry to take me there. It was the only ferry that day. Without it there was no way I could reach my accommodation. Even if I was willing to give the fifteen mile trek a shot, my attempt would be severely hampered by the four hundred metre high sheer cliffs that soared into the sky behind me. It was also imperative that I reached that village as it was from there that I was catching my ferry back the next morning. I didn’t have any information about alternative options. And I wasn’t too keen on an evening spent shelter-less in chilly Norway besides open water. Needles to say, I was quite keen to catch that ferry, and it was already worryingly late.
I must have cut quite lonely figure as I stood on that jetty silently willing each passing ship to head my way. I’d made my plans back in England, so there was always the chance that I’d made a mistake; consequently, my mind was running rampant with paranoid anxiety. “What if I read the timetable wrong?” “What if today’s a public holiday, and I didn’t realise” “What if the ferry was early and I’ve already missed it?” “What the hell am I going to do if this thing doesn’t turn up?”
The ferry did come, eventually. But it was a pretty stressful experience, and quite a memorable one. I learnt an important lesson that day. Never pin all of your plans on one single connection! Always have a back up plan. Yep, I’d never do that again!*
*That’s a lie. I found myself in almost exactly the same situation in Sweden a few years later. I’m clearly a slow learner, but you’ll have to go to my blog here to read the full story.
What is your dream destination?
That’s a typo, right? You used the singular when you meant the plural. Surely no one can have a single dream destination, can they? There’s just too much to see! So, I’ve yet to make it to the States, I haven’t visited a jungle yet (I’ve heard that’s where the best Irish pubs are), New Zealand, the steppes of Mongolia, Mount Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu…
How has travel changed you?
Many years ago a few friends and I took a trip to Canada. At one point we found ourselves ordering a round in a bar. The barman proudly directed our attention to the impressive collection of world beers he’d amassed. But we were young, naïve, unadventurous and, quite frankly, boring. So we simply opted for the same beer we drank back home. He tried to persuade us to reconsider, and I was tempted, but we were lads-on-tour and democracy within the group decreed that we would stick with our original choice.
I’m now older and (fractionally) wiser, and I look back on that behaviour with a wry smile. It was so ignorant and lazy of us to travel half way around the world but not immerse ourselves in every new experience the place had to offer. I would never do that now. Be open to everything. Embrace every new experience. And never pass up the opportunity to try a new beer!
As a writer do you feel you see the world and approach travel differently than if you didn’t write?
There’s a big difference between going somewhere to relax and going somewhere with the intention of writing about it. When you’re there simply for enjoyment you’re only focused on the moment. But, when you’re planning to write about it, only part of you is absorbing the experience; another part is distracted by thinking, where is the story here? What angle should I go for? How am I going to paint this picture? What are the important details?
There’s also a contradiction because in some ways you’re paying more attention to the situation (because you’re busily scribbling down every detail in your notebook) and in other ways you’re not paying as much attention to the situation (because you’re busily scribbling down every detail in your notebook). You may have your head buried in your notebook diligently taking down the dates of when a country gained independence, assuming that’s the important details, only to suddenly hear a commotion from your fellow coach tour companions because something incredible just happened, a dragon appeared in the sky and carried away a child or something, but you missed it because you were focused on nailing those independence dates.
But then, much like writing a diary, the notes you make help capture those moments and preserve them in your mind. I remember my last night in Marrakesh was spent in a rooftop bar I’d discovered. I was dutifully taking down every detail of the moment for a future blog post. Taking the time to note down the colours, the smells, the sounds and the sights has now cemented that experience firmer in my mind and created a more vivid memory, which is something that makes replaying it more of a treasure.
How long did it take for your first book to come to fruition?
It must have been a good fifteen months, which was a lot longer than intended. Part of the reason it took so long is that I was initially unsure how I wanted to tell the story. I tried several different angles before finally settling upon an approach that worked. On several occasions I felt that I was on the home stretch, only to read it through, realise it still wasn’t working, and grudgingly accept that I had to pull it all apart and essentially start again. On the plus side, I’m very happy with the final result, and I learned a great deal during the journey (and, after all, the journey and not the destination is what travelling is really all about! Okay, okay, I’ll get my coat…)
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
Lance’s Travels UK has only been published recently, so I don’t have anything else in the pipeline yet. I need to allow time for the world to discover it, fall in love with it, tell all their friends, family and water-cooler companions about it before showering it with awards and accolades to fuel the obligatory skyrocket up the bestseller’s lists. Once that inevitability is realised then I can use the revenue to cover my next big adventure and write the new book about that. So be patient…any day now…an-y day…
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
I’m heading to Paris for a few days in a month or so. I’ve only ever travelled through it while heading to and from the airport. I haven’t done the proper touristy stuff before, so that should be fun. I’m also in the early stages of planning a trip to Greece later in the year. I want to tour the historical sites. But it’s early days at the moment. I’ll have to see how that fits around my speaking engagements once Lance’s Travels UK becomes a runaway success…any day now…an-y day…
What is your must have travel accessory?
I guess it would have to be my phone, but not really for making calls. It’s my watch, alarm clock, supplementary camera and entertainment device for long journeys. Although…with that in mind, I guess the charger is pretty ‘must have’ as well.
What is your favourite travel book?
Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island, without a doubt. It’s intelligent, insightful and funny. You can’t really ask for more. And, as a Brit, I found it hugely entertaining to read our country and culture being so systematically, and hilariously, dissected through the eyes of an outsider. I enjoyed the book so much that it became quite an influence on my approach to my latest book. Well, in some respects. I’d like to think that I don’t get as grumpy as Bryson does sometimes!
What is your favourite travel quote?
I don’t have a favourite quote about travelling, but I do have a favourite quote from travelling. It was something that was said to me on the last day of my Norway trip.
I arrived at Oslo station on my way to the airport. Unusually for me I arrived with plenty of time to spare. I was still a smoker in those days and decided to kill the extra time by stepping outside for a cigarette. While doing so I noticed a number of young men loitering around the entrance and approaching the passing commuters. Their body language and clandestine manner made it obvious that they were drug-dealers busily plying their trade.
I finished my cigarette and headed inside. As I walked through the station I was approached by one of these individuals. He asked me something in Norwegian. I didn’t understand his words, but knew what he said. Still, I had, what I thought, was an easy escape from the undesirable conversation. I decided the simplest option was to plead ignorance. So I politely shrugged and apologised that I didn’t speak Norwegian. I expected that to be the end of that matter, but not in Norway. Without hesitating he translated the question: “Would you like to buy some cannabis?” Yep, English is so ubiquitous in Norway that even the drug-dealers can speak it fluently. Ignoring my amusement at this new found I knowledge I said, “Nah, I’m cool thanks.” Without missing a beat he smiled cheekily and said, “Do you want to be cooler?” That really did make me chuckle.
To see more from Lance visit his blog Lance’s Travels or to order his book Lance’s Travels – UK
I’d like to thank Lance for his entertaining and chuckle worthy interview and beautiful photos!