Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Our 10 Year Anniversary


TODAY is our 10 year anniversary of a life changing event. Mom, Ammon, Bree and I took off on an adventure that lasted four years and took us through 80 countries as a family, changing all of our lives forever. It’s incredible to look back and see how much we have accomplished individually and as a family since we took that leap of faith, left our normal lives in Vancouver, Canada and flew to China. Each step we took for the next four years was a mystery and gamble that ultimately took us to where we are today. Since then I have grown so incredibly much and become a person I would never recognize as that same teenager who left kicking and screaming ten whole years ago.
                                                                       During our trip  

  After the trip
As a family we made unforgettable memories and shared the most incredible experiences. Together we have stood in some of the highest and lowest points on earth, jumped from planes and bridges, learned to scuba dive in the Red Sea, trekked by camel back in the Sahara desert, slept under the stars in the Himalayas, walked on some of the oldest creations in the world, relaxed on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and lakes, shared meals and slept in local family’s homes throughout West Africa and Afghanistan, listened to locals’ first hand experiences of wars and ventured to Timbuktu and back again!
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                           Nepal                                                                            China
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                      South Africa                                                           Dominican Republic
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                          Sahara Desert                                                           Timbuktu
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                               Sudan                                                                 Maldives
Bree has since become an incredible stunt woman in the movie industry, Ammon has become an air traffic controller and I have become an author.
After falling in love in the deep dark jungles of Africa I moved abroad and became an expat in Holland at 18, visited 100 countries and wrote two books.
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                                 Then                                                                             Now
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I am so excited to see where else this life will take us because I know there is so much more in store for each of us! I love watching my family grow and form their lives around things they love and are passionate about.
PS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sandra who greeted us on the other side in Hong Kong for the very first days of our trip. She is a big character in Book 3 so you will get to know her very soon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Thank You

Today was release day! Wow. I received so many “happy release day” comments, and it has been better than any birthday or Christmas with all the posts, shares, tweets, interviews, guest posts, and reviews going live all over the web.

All of this excitement has made it easy to reminisce on the past four years and my writing journey. I have gained a loyal following and highly-engaged audience with a current Klout score of 68, which can be attributed to my new expertise in social media.

When I was 19, I considered going the traditional publishing route, but was shot down time after time after time again, until I eventually decided to self-publish. I didn’t want to wait for someone else to make my dream a reality. It was scary, and a big risk to take out loans to fund it all, having no prior experience in the industry, no platform and no idea where to start or where to go.

Now, after hundreds of hours of hard work and dedication, I can proudly say “I Grew My Boobs in China” has gained a readership of over 35,000 since its release. It has been featured in both local and international newspapers, aired on CTV (Canada), won literary awards, ranked in Goodreads' top #20 “Best Memoirs” category, sold at the 2014 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada and is currently a finalist in the 2014 Kindle Book Awards. I am also the founder and co-host of popular weekly Twitter travel chats #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled) and #Travelpics.

It’s hard to believe that when I started off in the whole book world, I didn’t have a Twitter account, Facebook page or Amazon account. I didn’t even know what Goodreads was! I had absolutely zero platform, which is why I never landed an agent in the beginning. What a sihpromatum. I have since had agents and publishers agree to work with me, but decided against that route in the end.

Most exciting is that I was able to pay back all the credit cards and get out of debt in the first year, but I took the gamble all over again and started on the second book, this time without using credit cards or borrowing any money. 

I am still be classified as a “starving artist”, but if things keep going as well as they have been, I can have a positive expectation of the future and that one day, I may be able to support myself by doing what I love most.

After another year of writing, and nearly half a year of piecing things together (editing, formatting, interior design, cover design, printing), the second book in the series, “Backpacks and Bra Straps” released TODAY.

I have lots of exciting things lined up for the next couple of weeks, including interviews and reviews which I will be posting. If you’re interested in reading the latest articles, check out the links at the bottom of this post.

I am so grateful to all of my many fans, supporters and friends who I have met along the way. I truly couldn’t do it without them and I hope I can repay them one day. One of the good friends I was fortunate enough to meet is Jessica (@JLipowski on Twitter).

Now, with 13,000 followers, you may wonder how the heck you can make any serious connections through Twitter. How on earth are you supposed to remember them all. Well, you don’t. And I sure as heck hope you’re not expected to, because I don’t. But there are the few Tweeters who send that one extra line, starting a conversation that turns into a lasting friendship. I am so glad that Jessica came into my life! She is an American expat writer who has been living in Amsterdam for the past 3+ years. On Sunday she invited me down to meet a friend of hers who is also a writer and currently traveling around Europe. Our fun-filled sleepover was quickly dubbed a pre-release, writer-girls party!

I have been living in Holland for nearly six years now (yes, that is almost impossible for me to believe!!) and rarely use public transport. But every single time I take the train down to Amsterdam I feel the most liberated, happy and free. I feel so independent and love watching the gorgeous green fields speckled with sheep, horses and windmills, huge white clouds hanging in the blue sky above. I just pull out my computer for the 45 min. ride and write an interview, the last bit of work before taking a real day off. 


As soon as I got to Amsterdam Central Station, Jessica, her Dutch boyfriend Matthijs  and her American friend Lanie swept me away into the city! I hopped on the back of Matthijs’ bicycle, Dutch style, and we cycled through the buzzing of trams, buses, hundreds of bicycles, pedestrians, and cobblestone streets to the most atmospheric restaurant I’ve ever set foot in. 

Jessica is working on her first book, which is about the cultural, diverse backgrounds of restaurant owners in Amsterdam. She has spent the past year interviewing dozens of restaurants owners and, in some instances, trying the food. For our visit, she took us to Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs. When you see the doorway and the intensely steep, almost ladder-like, red carpeted staircase through the dimly lit doorway, you almost can’t believe it’s true.


Matthijs and Jessica ordered traditional Dutch pancakes with cheese and spek (bacon), while I took on one of their specials. Special is an understatement! When people tell you “this is the best place ever!” or “the biggest this” or “the fastest” that, you get this awkward pressure to feel the same way. Well, I had no struggles at all when it came to the pancake house. By the end, I was convincing HER that they were the best pancakes ever. I had this dream pancake with the moistest, sweetest whipping cream… it was like a whipped cream, rhubarb soup, on top of a  thin slice of soft pancake. Delectable!

The owners, who Jessica previously interviewed for her book, a chubby Dutchman and his small, Indonesian husband (who has the sweetest, boyish smile ever), are a jolly gay couple. They live in the apartment above the tiny restaurant. There are all of four tables in the cramped space and old tea pots hang from the ceiling. The owner cooks in a space hardly big enough to turn around in, the two-burner stove squeezed in under the sloped wall, but he doesn’t seem to mind. The door to their living quarters is at the top of those ladder-like stairs, cramped under a sloped roof in a way that makes you wonder how they could possibly manage to crawl in.


Our next stop was not far by bicycle to the Brouwerij 't IJ, situated at the foot of a classic windmill. No matter how many I see, or how often, I am always excited when I see a windmill. The brewery has a fabulous atmosphere under the vine-covered patio, lined with long trestle tables and bar tables, locals and visitors alike drinking and laughing heartily together. Taste testing, American jokes and drink-inspired selfies filled the night.


Jessica’s self-designated tour guiding’s spoiling didn’t end there though. Next thing you know, Jessica whips out her secret stash of Kraft Mac n Cheese dinner!! That terrible, good stuff is the food every North American secretly loves.

I want to thank everyone who has made me feel so blessed and a special thank you to Jessica for giving me such a nice pre-release riot. It was the perfect time. Going down there gave me a big boost of much needed, fresh energy.