“I have been watching her sleep for hours; the grey silhouette of her face now looks unfamiliar. Finding no answers, I quietly slide out of bed and numbly pull on faded track pants. Too tired to cry and too stressed to rationalize, I sneak out of the room. It is insane to be awake at this hour; maybe I am going insane.”
The opening paragraph of The Red Rucksack immediately catches you and opens up a box of questions: Who is this character? Why is he awake? Why is he stressed?
Although we quickly learn that “he” is Ben, a pharmacist who finds himself stuck in a loveless relationship and a job that doesn’t excite him anymore, the book doesn’t let you go anymore.
We see how Ben quits both his job and his relationship to travel, something he’d been wanting to do for a long time, and follow him as he goes trekking in Nepal, climbs to Machu Picchu and learns to paraglide in Bolivia.
Oh, there are many other adventures in different countries as well, but they’re not what make this book so great. What does is the way Ben tells his story.
He draws you into his thoughts and feelings to let you experience his travels the way he did. You get scared when things risk to go wrong, feel happy when Ben does and see the people he meets along the way in front of you.
I started laughing out loud countless times when reading this book, like when Ben describes how his foot got numb after sitting in the bus for too long:
“It is acting like a dog on heat, wandering off to say hello to strangers and sniffing places it shouldn’t. I wish I had a leash for it.”
Once I even had to blink away a tear, when Ben and his parents reached Machu Picchu:
“With my back to the crowds enjoying Machu Picchu I watch intently as mum and dad approach. […] When they broach the ridge mum looks at me proudly. “I beat the othe…” Before finishing, her eyes flick to the view and she stops mid-sentence. Dad comes up quickly and, standing behind mum, stares at the view with his arms around her shoulders. Time stops, the crowds fade to white. My parents are somewhere else, maybe recalling two young lovers’ promise to visit here one day. I snap a few photos of my intrepid parents before completely getting caught up with emotion. Hastily pulling my sunglasses down over my eyes to maintain dignity, I feel honored to have shared this with them.”
And then of course there’s Jette. This book would have been great without a love story as well, but it certainly adds another level to it. You’re constantly wondering whether they’ll hook up, if they’ll see each other again …
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, you should read the book!
Ben started his blog The Red Rucksack after he’d quit his job to travel. Together with his diary this blog formed the base for his book. I was wondering how keeping a blog and writing a book affected each other… so I wrote him an email and asked:
1. How hard was it to turn your notes and your blog into a book? What made you decide to go for it?
The idea of writing a book has always been bubbling away in the back of my mind, I just had no idea what I could write about until I went exploring! Thankfully while traveling I kept a very detailed diary and wrote regular blog updates – mainly so mum knew I was still alive! This made the process of sitting down and turning my experiences into a readable book much easier.
I decided to really go for it when I landed in Denmark to live with Jette. I had about six months just doing a Danish language course. I was unable to work due to the language barrier. With this freedom, I decided to make my dream of writing a book a reality.
2. Would you say that writing “The Red Rucksack” has changed the way you approach travel blogging? Did it change your ‘blog style’?
Definitely, I would say that writing The Red Rucksack has changed my blogging style in two key ways:
1 – I am better at using dialogue. After about the fifth draft I sent my manuscript in for a the first of two appraisals. This is where you pay a published author to look at your manuscript and give feedback on all manner of things from style to story line to marketability.
I found this immensely rewarding as friends and family are scared to hurt you feelings, these guys aren’t! One thing that Tom said was, “Yours is a very interesting story Ben, but it is just you telling it. No matter how interesting their story, can you imagine sitting down in a pub and listening to someone talk for 14 hours straight? No. This is what you are trying to do…let the people around you tell your story.”
I have taken this little gem and now use much more dialogue in my blogs.
2 – I am less afraid to tell it like I see it. I used to pussyfoot around things that bothered me, or that I have a strong opinion on. Feedback I’ve received on my book is pretty much unanimous in that people enjoy my writing when I tell it like I see it, naturally without being judgmental or opinionated… your opinion is your key a point of difference.
3. Where can people get your book?
The Red Rucksack is available in all manner of online and physical retailers. It is available as a Kindle, ePub or good ol’ fashioned printed book.
Thanks Ben! And because you told me I’d get extra bonus points for including it… the fig leave picture:
I received a copy of the book for review purposes. The links to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that if you decide to buy “The Red Rucksack” I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you.