Q&A with Indie author Stephanie Lee: solo travel & e-books

August 2, 2010

Not only do we have an awesome Q&A today with a traveler and writer, we also have my first-ever giveaway! A copy of The Art of Solo Travel. I’ll explain how to enter after the interview.

Stephanie Lee's new book.

The author of that book, Stephanie Lee, is here to share advice on traveling solo and tell us about her experience publishing an e-book.

Stephanie’s a life-long traveler; she grew up in Kuala Lumpur and San Francisco, then studied architecture in Sydney. After six years of working at architectural firms, she left everything behind for an around-the-world trip. When she returned to Sydney, where she now runs a private architectural practice and sells eco-friendly homewares, she wrote her first book, The Art of Solo Travel.

SoloFriendly.com reviewed the book, and Stephanie recently launched a Facebook page for fans.

Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! Can you start by telling us about your travels? Where’d you go? How did you fund your big trip? Why’d you decide to go solo?

Author and traveler Stephanie Lee

To date I have travelled to over 100 cities spread over 30 countries and four continents. Travelling solo was something I had always wanted to do but I was constantly sidetracked by something or other — long architectural studies, relationships, career, the usual expected milestones in life. After obtaining those things, I felt in limbo and began to think about my dreams of solo travel again. In the end I decided that I would really regret it if I never did it, so I needed to live that dream. To do that I needed to let go of my conventional life, so gave everything up to wander the globe with a free mind and spirit.

In terms of funds, I prepared and saved for almost 11 months in order to have enough money to travel without worrying about looking for work. I understand most people would not be in the position to do this, but I only managed it because I started late (30) and by that time I had enough disposable income to travel how I wanted to.

Why’d you decide to turn those experiences into a book?

As any solo traveller will tell you, it gets really lonely and boring at times. Keeping a travel blog and documenting all my new experiences and sensations really helped with combating both loneliness and boredom. In the middle of my trip I thought it would be fun to write more stories and tips about my travels, and approached Indie Travel Podcast with some pitches. They graciously accepted me and I started writing monthly articles for them. At the end of my travels, I realized that there were so many new things I learned that could benefit other aspiring solo travellers. These slowly developed into a manuscript. After months of pro bono contributions to ITP, I pitched my book manuscript to them, and they were keen to work together publishing it. The rest is history as they say.

So is it more of a how-to book or a memoir of your experiences — or both?

It’s more of a how-to book, or a guide to inspire and help other to-be solo female travellers.

What are your top three tips for women traveling solo?

1. Be organized. There are many logistics involved with solo travel, especially transport and accommodation. It’s a good idea to plan at least two weeks ahead when it comes to accommodation. If you’re not sure where you want to stay until you get to a new place, at least have the details of two hostels/hotels just in case.

2. Pack light. When you’re alone, the last thing you want to do is worry about lots of luggage. As discussed in my ebook, keep it to one bag only, preferably 15kg or under. I managed to stick to this weight while travelling for well over nine months by sticking to my tight packing list (which still allows for an acceptable level of hygiene and comfort, so don’t worry, there’s no need to dry yourself with a t-shirt). You’ll be able to access the full list in my ebook.

3. Keep an open mind and heart. You’ll meet lots of people and encounter many situations on solo travel. There will be good and bad times. The important thing is to remember that these experiences will stay with you forever, so stay positive and embrace any possibilities.

What would you tell women who are looking to travel alone but worry about their safety?

It depends on what countries they plan to travel to. In most urban cities I was never very worried about safety in the day as there were always lots of people around me. In countries with reputations for theft and crime, it’s a good idea to join tour groups and also to meet other single travellers. Always walk in the opposite direction of traffic if possible so someone in a bike can’t come behind and surprise you. Try to meet up with other solo travellers at night for company and safety’s sake. You can find them on Travbuddy or one of the local couchsurfing groups.

I heard you did quite a bit of couch-surfing. Can you explain what that is and why you felt comfortable doing it as a woman?

Couchsurfing is a form of connecting with locals by literally ‘surfing’ their couch. This basically means locals offer travellers an opportunity to sleep at their home – for free – in exchange for friendship and learning about culture from one another. I travelled using this as my only method of accommodation for well over six months, and in the process I made many lifelong friends I would never trade for the best hotel in the world even if I could afford it. As a solo female couchsurfer, the one-on-one connection with my hosts (50/50 male and female) was my main reason for travelling this way as it is like having an old friend in every new city I visited. However, always read someone’s profile and references (left by others who have previously couchsurfed with them) and if you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately.

You can read more about my couchsurfing experiences on Matador and read more about the Couchsurfing community‘s Safety News in their latest newsletter.

Why’d you decide to publish an e-book rather than go the traditional publishing route? Is that something you’d recommend?

Craig and Linda, who run Indie Travel Media (my publishers) are full-time travellers and work and earn income through a location-independent lifestyle. As I was also travelling at the time my book manuscript was being developed, all communication was conducted via e-mail. Due to the logistics, an e-book seemed the only viable option at the time, also to ‘test’ the potential audiences before maybe thinking about a print version which will require all of us to have a more permanent address!

Also, since the e-book is targeted at travellers, an electronic version is also much handier than carrying a traditional paper version.

Can you tell us more about the logistics of publishing an e-book? How does an e-book author get paid differently than a traditional author?

I put together a manuscript myself and my publishers (Indie Travel Media) did the editing and the rest. I’m not an expert on traditional publishing, but I believe book authors who get published that way usually receive a cash advance. In my instance, there is no advance but I only get paid if a copy gets sold.

Thanks, Stephanie!

Readers, if you want to ask Stephanie about traveling solo or e-book publishing, the floor is yours. She’s promised to swing by to answer your questions.

And now, the giveaway! To enter to win a copy of Lee’s e-book, The Art of Solo Travel, from Indie Travel Media, choose one of the following:

  • RT this interview on Twitter (make sure you include @alexisgrant in the tweet so I see it)
  • Share this interview on Facebook (leave a comment below and let me know you did)
  • Or, for those of you who haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon yet, simply leave a comment below.

[tweetmeme source=”alexisgrant”]

Your chance to enter ends Friday, August 6. We’ll pick a winner at random and let you know who it is on this blog next week. Good luck!

UPDATE: The winner is Melanie at So Very Vienna!

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    13 Replies to “Q&A with Indie author Stephanie Lee: solo travel & e-books”

    • Great interview! I probably won’t be doing much solo travel, but I just got back from Cambodia and would LOVE to see the world!

      I’m also very interested in e-book publishing. And my family (husband, 3 daughters) and I did a form of couch-surfing from August 1, 2008 to August 1, 2009 when we stayed with 31 families on a year-long Zoo Adventure.

      Fun stuff!

    • 31 families sounds amazing! With the Kindle and ipad gaining popularity, ebook publishing is really picking up, so go for it Maria, you never know where it might lead you!

    • SoVeryVienna says:

      Great interview. I agree with your tips, Stephanie. Two more of my own are: always know how to say “help” in the language spoken locally, if it’s not my native English and 2. Leave a phone number with my mom at home for someone (a friend, hotel staff) in the country I’m visiting so she can reach me in an emergency.

    • Peggy Frezon says:

      Looks like a great book. I love tip #2 “pack light”. So hard to do!

    • jessiecarty says:

      Love the interview! My husband and I haven’t had a chance to travel recently but I’d really love to get to a point where we could do something like this for a year or six months even. right now we just travel when we can and pack light is the BEST tip 🙂

    • @Vienna: Good tips! Honestly, I never left any phone numbers because I travelled to so many different countries that it just wasn’t that possible. I always had Skype on my wifi phone though.
      @Peggy & Jessie: After a while, packing light becomes 2nd nature, but guess what? It’s easier to pack light on a long trip then it is for a short one! 🙂

      • jessiecarty says:

        That is so true! My husband and I are pros at packing enough for trips overseas that can fit in a carry on but, like this last weekend, I just go out of town for the weekend and I have a trunk full of stuff 🙂

    • Heather Rae says:

      Great interview! I’ve been really interested in doing some long term, solo travel myself — and I’m looking forward to checking out your book. Thanks, Alexis, for bringing some great info!

    • lol @ jessie.
      @Heather: Thanks, you will have the best time, promise! I’ve been compiling more information since the book was published so if you get a copy you will get free updates (when I do get around to putting it all together!) forever 🙂

    • Liz Parry says:

      Thanks for a really inspiring interview! I’ve recently been thinking about quitting my job and travelling solo around South East Asia, but I’ve been dithering a bit.

      As a woman in her early 30s I thought I’d left it too late, and I worried that I couldn’t do it on my own. But reading about Stephanie’s experiences has given me the confidence to believe I can pursue my dream. I can’t wait to read the book and start planning for my trip! Thanks Stephanie and Alexis.

    • You’re very welcome Liz! I learned that it’s never too late, or better late than never! Please visit my Facebook page (link up the top) if you have any questions regarding your trip, I’ll be happy to help.

    • Bilgix says:

      really good blog

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