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.
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
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
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
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
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,
Richard Fitt on 01234.327320
USA paperback ( ISBN 0-9541432-0-5) is
published thru Booklocker.com Inc,
Contact: Angela Adair-Hoy
on Fax +1 (207) 262.5544
Australian eBook edition from Zeus
Publications of Burleigh,
Contact: Bruce Rogers
on + 61 (755) 755.141
Canadian eBook edition from Outsideguide.com
Inc, of Calgary,
Contact: Miles Prodan
on +1 (403) 298.4970
Or contact the author
Richard Meredith on 01908.618439
Mercury Books ..... home of the No.1
adventure travelogue ONE WAY OR
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!