Writer Wednesday – Meet Sue Bedford
Sue Bedford is that special breed of indie travel author that sucks you in to whatever she writes, whether it’s her travel blog or a piece for Outpost Magazine. This fellow Canadian decided to take a year long trek with a friend of hers around the world and the result is her debut book It’s Only the Himalayas & Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker.
Writer Wednesday would like to introduce Sue Bedford
I don’t know how to ride a bike but I can tap dance. The latter comes in handy when discouraging strangers from chatting you up at bus stops. Also, I’ve bungee-jumped, hang-glided and sky-dived but I still can’t look over a third floor balcony. Originally from Toronto, I recently moved to Vancouver because even in a down jacket that resembles a sleeping bag with arms I was cold.
Have you ever travelled solo?
I’ve traveled solo quite a few times. There are drawbacks, such as being your own cheer squad when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, and lugging your gigundo backpack to the bathroom in train stations because there’s nobody around to watch it. But then there are the moments where you’re somewhere geographically and/or culturally remote, and you suddenly realize nobody knows where you are… god, they’re exhilarating.
How many countries have you visited?
Fifty-something, depending whether you count Tibet, Palestine and Vatican City.
What is your favourite place and why?
The Annapurna region in Nepal. The landscape is staggering, the culture is captivating, and the challenge is humbling—which is a polite way of saying the trekking whipped my butt.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
Ridiculous. I’ve been chased by African lions in Zimbabwe, danced among human skulls in Borneo, and tattooed some guy’s face in Guatemala… poorly. Sometimes I win; sometimes circumstance wins. The second makes for the best stories.
What is your must have travel accessory?
Ear plugs, an eye mask and a sarong (to be used as a blanket on long journeys). Sorry, that’s three things. Math was never my strong suit.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
Ooh, tough! Maybe scuba-diving with manta rays near Komodo Island in Indonesia. The mantas were enormous and elegant, soaring through the water like albatrosses on a zephyr, radiating an almost tactile serenity. At one point they circled around each other as though affixed to opposing sides to a swirling orb, their black backs and white underbellies flashing like a yin yang.
What is your dream destination?
I’d love to do a road trip through the national parks in the American southwest. Last year Outpost Magazine sent me to write a feature on Bryce Canyon and the natural beauty of the blush-coloured hoodoos left me reeling. Of course, the altitude may have had an affect…
Do you have any upcoming trips?
None at the moment. As I mentioned, I recently moved to Vancouver and so I’m still exploring my new home.
How has travel changed you?
We all have these notions of what we can and can’t do, and we often underestimate ourselves. Before I went traveling, I couldn’t flip an omelette without it becoming scrambled eggs, and wondered how the hell I was going to survive unsupervised in the great yonder. As it turns out, I’m adaptable to and capable of more than I thought. Not to say I did any of it gracefully—in fact, most of my time on the road was spent bowled over, freaked out, awkwardly embarrassed or completely terrified—but the point is we can achieve more than we think. Bravery isn’t about not being scared, it’s about going for it anyway. It must be noted, however, that I still can’t flip an omelette.
How long did it take for your book to come to fruition?
It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker is based on a 2010 round-the-world trip I embarked upon with my exasperatingly perfect best friend. I began flipping through my old journals in 2012; writing, editing, submitting and eventually publication by Brindle & Glass took about four years.
Your book mocks your misadventures along your travels, but what is the most dangerous situation you found yourself in? And what did you learn from it?
Probably getting stalked by lions. Despite cautions, warnings and threats from hostel staff, my friend and I followed our daring (and drunk) safari guide into the Zimbabwean jungle at night in search of an adventure. When we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by glowing eyes, I raced faster—and came closer to literally crapping my pants—than ever before. Everybody takes calculated risks while backpacking, from tuk-tuking through Delhi traffic to hitchhiking through Mexican countryside, and when they pan out favourably we tend to extend ourselves the next time. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we’re not the hero in some fantastical tale who will certainly be saved by Fortuna.
What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I hope readers realize that 1) travel isn’t as rosily glamourous as their Instagram feed may suggest and 2) even the most neurotic loser (i.e. me) can do it.
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
Ah, such secrets I cannot divulge…
Where is your favourite place to write?
Home alone on a rainy day surrounded by tea, blankets and creeping shadows.
What is your favourite travel book?
In terms of books to read while traveling, I loved The Beach and Shantaram. My favourite non-fiction travel books are by Bill Bryson, notably A Walk in the Woods.
What is your favourite travel quote?
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
(Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken)
To see and read more from Sue Bedford head over to her website here, or follow her on Instagram at @sbedford_86 . To purchase her book, It’s Only the Himalayas & Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker, click here.
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