Jamie Baywood is very busy these days with various events on the occasion of the launch of her book, Getting Rooted in New Zealand. A good opportunity for me to ask her to answer a couple of question about travel writing, New Zealand and expat life. If you were looking for a good read for the summer, maybe now you have the answer.
How did you decide to start writing your travel book?
I started writing my book because I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane.
What is the limit between fiction and travel? How much memoir and how much fiction? Would you recommend the book to someone interested to document a trip to New Zealand?
My book is a true story. My life has been so strange it sounds like fiction, but it is really too weird to be made up. My truth is stranger than fiction. Some, but not all of the names of individuals and organizations have been changed to preserve privacy, but the stories are all true.
My book is in no way, shape, or form a travel guide to New Zealand. I lived in New Zealand for over a year; it is about relocating and uprooting one’s life more than travelling.
- What did you find interesting and different in New Zealand, compared to California - except the distances, of course?
Whenever I go back to California, I am always shocked by how busy, crowded and loud it is. Everyone is rushing around, there is so much traffic, and it just feels chaotic all the time. I was amazed with how quiet and unpopulated Auckland felt. People in Auckland would complain about traffic and I would laugh.
California and New Zealand are roughly the same size. It wasn’t until I went to New Zealand that I understood how enormous America is.
New Zealand feels so safe. In California, I would carry pepper spray with me everywhere I went. I was always on edge living in California. It was amazing to me that in New Zealand the police didn’t have guns. I felt much safer as a single female traveling alone in New Zealand than living in California.
The flip side of the feeling of being sheltered from the world in New Zealand was I felt isolated. There was a palpable feeling of being at the end of the world in New Zealand that at times I found overwhelming.
- I have New Zealand on my priority list for a long time. What should I see and do before I leave?
See everything. See the whole country. It is manageable to drive around both islands. The roads are pretty easy to navigate getting around the islands.
New Zealand is famous for its scenery, but I loved the creative scene in Auckland. Spend time in Auckland watch Steve Wrigley stand-up and watch a Thomas Sainsbury play.
I miss eating at chicken katsu at Renkon, the amazing French restaurant Le Garde-Manger on upper Queen Street, and Ponsonby Food Court in Auckland. Also be sure to go wine tasting on Waiheke Island.
- How much did it take to write the book? Any recommendations for a first time travel writer?
Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. The stories made people laugh so I decided to organize the stories into a book and publish in the hopes to make others laugh too.
I recommend other travel writers write things down when they are fresh in your memory. Events that are unplanned or seemingly insignificant at the time maybe be entertaining or interesting down the line.
- What are your favourite travel writers?
The Travelettes and the Young Adventuress have great travel blogs.
- What is the subject of your next book?
My next book will be about traveling on the South Island of New Zealand, Australia, California and attempting to settle down in Scotland.
You can find Jamie on Twitter: @JamieBaywood and on Facebook.com/jamiebaywood
The Interview was published first on my travel blog: http://ilanaontheroad.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/interview-of-the-week-jamie-baywood-about-her-book-getting-rooted-in-new-zealand/