These months are extremely busy. There’s a lot to do before I leave for the United Kingdom: designing the walking route between Bognor Regis and Cape Wrath while wrapping up three books truly does add some pressure to the whole process. And it’s all my own fault.
When I arrived in the Netherlands to live here for a while again on February 6th 2016, I got this crazy idea to set out on a mission to write a story – but preferably a book – about every country in the world. Sounds crazy, right? Are there even enough days in a lifetime to complete such a ‘mission’? Well, it all depends on how you craft the story, the adventure, the amount of details you scribble into your little notebook.
So when I obligingly decided to do a travel book on the Netherlands, I quickly found out that I couldn’t just set out on a journey and write about my home country as if I’m Alice in Wonderland, looking in awe and with surprise at people living in the culture that I grew up in. I needed to dig deeper into that culture if I wanted to write about it for a Dutch audience (I had decided that the book should be in Dutch instead of English, like the others). In other words: I needed to seek input from professionals.
The two travel books I had published at that point were In Australia and In Vietnam. Both were in English. The former book was initially called Backpacking in Australia and the latter book was Ascents & Descents. I did not like these titles, for some reason. I decided to drop ‘backpacking’ to appeal to a larger audience, and the other story had to be more clearly about Vietnam. Hence I retitled them In Australia and In Vietnam.
Because I wanted to get people involved with the Dutch project, I felt that I needed to have other, Dutch-written books under my belt, just to say, “Look, I’m not some crazy fan trying to get close to you. I have written more books than just this one!” It was my way to be taken seriously. But a long way, too!
I started translating both books by the end of September 2016, after I’d wrapped up the writing process of American Safari, the story of my north to south trip through the Americas. I’d underestimated the translating process – it was extremely tedious. When the editor of the Dutch version of In Australia said that it was one of the best stories she’d ever worked on, I felt that I’d done the right thing when I… made all these new changes to that story as I translated.
With all these improvements worked into the Dutch version, they obviously also needed to be worked into the English version. And that’s why, right now, I’m in Australia and in Vietnam at once. It’s not much work compared to translating (never again!), but it has to be done.
And there’s still the book on the Netherlands. I spent the second half of 2017 interviewing famous people from TV and YouTube and experts in various fields. I’ve been all over the country and accumulated more than thirty stories. Think of taking a safari with a ranger, a tour of the Dutch navy harbour, a visit to a food bank, a tour through a quarry (yes, there are quarries here, even though you might think everything is green and flat and clay!), interviews with museum volunteers and directors, and so much more. It’s truly varied, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the diversity of my own country.
In order to work these stories into one solid travel story, I’m going to revisit all the destinations where I’ve previously been. I created a route that not only takes me back, but also through all twelve provinces. In each destination I’ll be spending the minimum amount of time I’d need for that story – but I’ll be using that time to just wander around for additional information and to work the experiences I just had on the train or bus getting there into the story.
The story, then, stands on three pillars, as I like to call it: the journey through the Netherlands itself, the stories created beforehand, and my reading a book called The Undutchables and comparing it to the country as I travel through it. It’s going to be a great book. I can feel it already!
And then there’s a full blown adventure awaiting in the United Kingdom. Bill Bryson deviced The Bryson Line in his latest travel book called The Road to Little Dribbling. My plan is to walk from beginning to end, more than 1,100km. But while Mr. Bryson deviced his Line by simply using a ruler, it’s a lot more work to find out where I have to turn right or left in order to stay close to The Bryson Line. This means spending hundreds of hours on Google Streetview, scrolling through the English countryside.
And this is how, my dear readers, I happen to be in Australia, in Vietnam, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom all at once. I can’t wait to get the first two send out to the editor, hop on the train for my two week tour of the Netherlands (March 6th-20th) and send out that manuscript to the publisher, and, most of all, take the Eurostar to London for In Britain. After two years of sitting bone-idle, writing away while making a living as a hotel receptionist in the heart of Amsterdam, my feet are itchier than ever. I’m going back to having adventures again. That’s an amazing feeling.