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        Richard Meredith
         
        Question: Your book is about going 
        round the world. A lot of people want to 
        do that – and some of them have. 
        What was so special about your trip?
        

        Answer: Well, I’m in my 50s and I went as a back-packer for a year. That’s what makes it different I suppose, although, to be honest, I don’t see why that should cause such a fuss.

        Question: Where did you go, and how?

        Answer: I just went to one of those places which specialize in round-the-world tickets for adventure travelers. Admittedly they were rather surprised to see this balding baby-boomer who wanted to go traveling. But why ever not? And it was brilliant value. I went on one of the traditional back-packer’s routes – east to west through Egypt, India, Nepal, Thailand and the Far East to Australia, New Zealand, South America, the USA and Canada. There were other places, too, which I added in as extras, like Bali, Fiji and the West Indies. Mostly I flew, but there were also some amazing journeys by bus, train and car.

        Question: How did it all come about?

        Answer: In the summer of 2000 I found myself at a crossroads in life, like so many of us do. The bank had insisted that I sell up my business to someone with more money and the relationship I was in was coming to an end. It gave me a clear opportunity to do something different.

        Question: Opportunity?

        Answer: Yes, instead of just moaning about my bad luck or whatever, I decided to do something positive and get-up-and-go! The fact is, many people are finding themselves in a mid-life crisis these days – and I don’t just mean the old “menopausal male” thing. The world of work is changing so fast. There’s no such thing as job security any more, people are finding themselves redundant, or being paid off, or simply wanting to retire early because of the pressures and stress. But at 50, most folk are still young enough to feel reasonably fit – and going round the world is a great way to prove you’re still alive! Truth is, it might even be the best time. I don’t mean that discourteously, but I do think middle-agers have a better ability to judge, appreciate and evaluate things than youngsters do. And they still have the drive and energy which maybe start to fade when people get into later life.

        Question: What about responsibilities, money?

        Answer: Well I suppose I was fortunate to be relatively “free”. I had got divorced (not so unusual these days, shall we say!) and my two kids are old enough to be making their own way in the world. Renting the house out was easy and I gave power of attorney to my brother to deal with anything urgent that came up. Money? Yes, people always think that money will be a problem. But you know, if you think what you would normally spend on a couple of family-type holidays each year, and then if you realize that the UK is one of the most expensive places in the world right now, you are probably no worse off traveling abroad than staying at home – plus, of course, doing it the back-packing way keeps costs further down.

        Question: Did you live pretty rough then?

        Answer: No, not rough as in sleeping under hedges. But always in back-packer places, or hostels and cheap hotels. Often I shared dormitories. You don’t have to, but I wanted to – because I wanted to get down to the grass roots of a country and find out what was going on; not to be cocooned in some swanky hotel or lying on a beach which might have been anywhere. I’ve always got along with younger people – and they were fine with me. Yes, I suppose I was a bit of a novelty but I was never made to feel unwanted or uncomfortable. In several places I made friends with local people and they invited me to stay in their homes, which was wonderful, and sometimes I stopped with the traveling people I met when I visited their own countries later. There were also relatives in the USA and Canada who I hadn’t seen for years.

        Question: So what kind of adventures came your way?

        Answer: It really is an amazing world out there. Until my mid-20s I was a newspaper reporter, and I suppose my nose is trained to sniff out news and action. But you don’t have to look hard – there is always something going on! I don’t just mean gazing at Mother Nature’s wonders, I mean things which touch on our own lives and our community in some way … even if we don’t realize it. That’s why going traveling, as opposed to holiday-making, is such an education. My book is a travelogue. It’s a collection of short stories and anecdotes – a kind of 12-month series of snap-shots, if you like. It’s very topical: like being in America while Bush’s election controversy was going on, of being with the homeless in San Francisco and the super-rich in Hollywood; the Olympics in Sydney; some serious rioting in Canada and a gunfight in Fiji (yes, Fiji…). Then there was adventure: like white-water rafting, a week in the Australian Outback and monster-hunting in Thailand, plus getting a westerner’s-eye view of some of the poorest places on Earth. India, of course, is a disturbing and thought-provoking land, full of contrasts and contradictions, and Nepal, which is poorer still, and Indonesia, in the aftermath of Suharto’s evil regime….

        Question: Wasn’t it difficult coming back to the “real” world?

        Answer: No, not really – although I must say it took a while to re-adjust to the UK’s heap of rules, regulations and establishment structure. I’m sure there’s nowhere else quite like it! I came back last summer, having decided to re-invent myself as an author. Twice before I have launched and run successful businesses, so I wasn’t afraid to begin again. I had started to write my book as I went along – diving into internet cafés to key my stuff into Hotmail files – so pulling it all together and finding how to get it published has really kept me busy.

        Question: But the argument is that not everyone can start again, don't you think?

        Answer: I don’t see why not. We all need to face up to the thought that it might happen to us one day. Beginning again is perhaps too emotive, too abrupt. In today’s world we need to become more flexible, able to adapt. There’s a trend now in business for people to take a sabbatical for a year. It rejuvenates them, gives them room to breathe and think again. It’s “taking a year out” as the youngsters say, only why should it just be for them? I read an article the other day by John McLaren, also now an author, who decided to quit the rat-race of City life in his mid-40s. He tells of a like-minded, mid-life criser who went traveling but found, when he got back, that it felt like the start of a new term, only there was no school to go to. I suppose it might seem daunting. But Rosie Boycott, editor of my old paper, the Express, until she was turfed out at 50 by a new regime, also wrote recently: “I realized that work had been defining the way I spent my time, the structure of my days, the mood of my evenings and weekends.” Without work, she says, she was able to re-educate herself to use and value her time and now, already, she is finding the experience positive and empowering. “We are the lucky pioneers of the future,” she believes. And I think she’s right. Anyway, from my own experience, I can say that literally scores of people in my kind of age bracket have come up to me before, during and after my trip, saying that they would love to do what I’ve done, or are planning to - and I don’t think anyone should be afraid to give it a go.

        Question: Do you think they can and should write a book, too?

        Answer: M’mm, well it’s very hard to get published. The book industry has got to be one of the few left where the Big Boys have got things sewn up. It seems like they don’t take chances with newcomers unless you are a big-name politician, TV, pop or sports star. I’ve formed my own company imprint and I am publishing the book jointly with a small, independent publishing house here in the UK, and with a wonderfully entrepreneurial outfit in the USA. The deal is that I get to keep a bigger slice of sales revenue, but I have to do a lot of the marketing and promotion. It’s keeping me busy lining up speaking engagements and book-signings. But that’s great – because I can get out there and tell all those baby-boomers that it’s never too late to hit the back-packer trail, or anything else they want to do for that matter! One Way or Another - paperback edition (ISBN 0-7552-0033-0) is jointly published under the author’s own imprint MercuryBooks and AuthorsOnLine Ltd of Maidenhead Street, Hertford, price 9.99. Contact: Richard Fitt on 01234.327320 or email: theeditor@authorsonline.co.uk USA paperback ( ISBN 0-9541432-0-5) is published thru Booklocker.com Inc, of Maine, price US$14.95 Contact: Angela Adair-Hoy on Fax +1 (207) 262.5544 or email: angela@booklocker.com Australian eBook edition from Zeus Publications of Burleigh, Queensland, price Aus$17.50 Contact: Bruce Rogers on + 61 (755) 755.141 or email: zeus@omcs.com.au Canadian eBook edition from Outsideguide.com Inc, of Calgary, Alberta, price Can$14.90 Contact: Miles Prodan on +1 (403) 298.4970 or email: miles@travelunbound.com Or contact the author Richard Meredith on 01908.618439 or email: ricmeredith@hotmail Mercury Books ..... home of the No.1 adventure travelogue ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. Visit http://www.mercurybooks.co.uk .... buy it at your local bookstore ... or go to http://www.amazon.co.uk - and win 50.00 for writing a review!
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