Writer Wednesday – Meet Laura Stephens
This months travel writer is Laura Stephens, author of An Inconvenient Posting that tells the tales of her and her family’s time in as expats in the USA. Born in England, Laura is not only an author but a psychotherapist who has also lived the expat life in Singapore.
Writer Wednesday would like to introduce Laura Stephens
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am an author, blogger and therapist (MBACP Acrd.) Married with three kids, I have two cats with huge tails. I can be loving and kind (and grumpy and feisty) depending on how much sleep I’ve had. I have lived in North and South England, Singapore and the USA.
Have you ever travelled solo? If so, where was your first trip? If not, why?
I have lived alone and flown alone many times, but have never been drawn to travel by myself. I guess I prefer a shared experience.
How many countries have you visited?
Many, but not enough!
What is your favourite place and why?
I’ll pick a California road trip. I’ve been twice over fifteen years and both times loved the contrasts of stunning scenery and places in the north and south. The friendly people, warm climate and tasty food help make this a favourite destination.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
What is your must have travel accessory?
A tiny magnifying mirror; it was a couple of dollars in the States – so useful.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
I probably shouldn’t admit this; coming down to breakfast in Phuket and finding Robbie Williams (Singer/songwriter) at the next table happily larking about with his band members was memorable and our little girls were charmed. Living in Singapore at the time, we’d seen him in concert a couple of days before. I took some undercover snapshots only to discover later I had no film in the camera – I’m no pap – it was 2003 I think. Technology has moved on!
My most memorable moment living abroad was being in Houston when it took a direct hit from Hurricane Ike – more of which in the book …
What is your dream destination?
High on my hit list is South America – particularly Peru and understanding ancient civilisation, one for the retirement years perhaps?
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
We have three teenagers so it’s important to find a holiday that accommodates all tastes – not easy. Greece has been a favourite destination since I was a teenager. This year we are combining sun and sail in mainland Greece; a first for all of us. I went to Thassos about thirty years ago; I remember the scent of pine trees and taste of silky pine honey. And swimming among slabs of white marble partially submerged in the turquoise sea – that was stunning.
How has travel changed you?
It is something of a cliché but true that travelling broadens the mind; how others live, many less fortunate than yourself is humbling and inspires gratitude. Understanding there are many points of view within diverse cultures, and ‘getting’ they are all valid for the people who hold them. For example, I don’t condone the gun culture in America, but I do understand how it developed and why for some people the prospect of giving up their gun is frightening and disempowering.
How long did it take for your book to come to fruition?
Approximately three years. I kept at it.
You really dig deep into your mental state in ‘An Inconvenient Posting’, what do you want others struggling to get from your story?
I wrote ‘An Inconvenient Posting’ for anyone who has struggled with loss – transition, identity, country and family. It is in part a book about my own journey in to and out of a depressive episode. It’s not a depressing book though; there was so much beauty and insight in the experience of the expat postings our family shared.
What is the hardest part about living abroad?
For me, it was ruminating about who and what I was missing.
And what is the most rewarding part about living abroad?
Ironically getting away from what I knew too well and had become mundane. Excitement and a sense of adventure around new experiences and meeting so many fascinating folks were the highlights.
What is your top tip for travellers wanting to live abroad?
Do your homework before you say ‘yes’, imagine actually living in the place based on what you know. If you still want to go ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ and be open to trying everything in the early days. I think that’s four tips.
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
Yes, I am excited to have started my first novel – I’m finding writing fiction emancipating by contrast to memoir and blog posts.
What is your favourite travel book?
‘Forced to Fly’ (Summertime Publishing) is an anthology by expatriates ‘from everywhere’. I enjoyed the contributions about travel and seeing the funny side of living abroad, sadly I wasn’t one of them!
What is your favourite travel quote?
“Grooming tip: If you can’t find curlers big enough, use empty Dr Pepper cans.”
Kinky Friedman, Kinky Friedman’s Guide to Texas Etiquette