A Kick-Ass Travel Planning Guide: In Conversation with Becky Carruthers
If you’re daydreaming about the prospect of traveling, then Becky Carruthers proposes a kickass way to jumpstart your travel plans and turn them into reality. In her first published book, “How to Kick-Ass at Travel Planning,” Becky offers relatable and easy-to-follow advice on how to plan travel. If you use Instagram for travel inspiration (as many people do), it’s easy to get travel overload.
Sometimes it can be confusing deciding where to go, where to stay, and what to do. But, Becky has a simple solution for that. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time traveling, Becky has sound advice for all of us.
Becky, a native of New Zealand, grew up surrounded by grandparents, parents, and sisters who did and continue to travel extensively. Travel “is in her blood,” she says, and she has family members all over the world. At a young age, she learned to plan and execute her own adventures, and has done so for more than ten years.
Becky has lived in Tibet, being one of only 25 foreigners to live in Lhasa at that time. She spent two years in Tibet taking university courses, translating and writing articles for websites and tour companies, leading informal group hikes, and gaining fluency in the Tibetan language.
This experience led to her deep connections in Tibet, and she yearned to practice with locals in teahouses and monasteries any chance she got. After two years she had to leave the country, but she says she left with a heavy heart.
This guide is for all procrastinators, daydreamers, Instagram addicts, and everyone in between.
Following her time in Tibet, she lived in various locations around Asia: Kham (eastern Tibet), Chengdu and Dali (China), and Kathmandu (Nepal). Becky has worked as an English teacher, volunteer coordinator, a marketing manager, a freelance writer, and a drama teacher. Her impressive resume and travel experiences lends to her expertise and ability to share travel-planning tips.
Living abroad, immersing herself in different cultures, and getting out of life-threatening situations have contributed to what makes this such a kickass book. Becky says, “I wanted this book to make the process of planning a trip easy for people who might otherwise be dissuaded or put off.”
This guide is for all procrastinators, daydreamers, Instagram addicts, and everyone in between. Becky dissects the travel planning process into bite-size, and manageable steps that she discusses in more detail in our interview.
First of all, congratulations on publishing your first book! How does it feel to have it published and ready for sale?
Thanks! It’s a mixture of crazy excitement and relief. I’m really proud of myself too, for managing something that I didn’t think I could.
What inspired you to write this “kickass” guide? And how was the process of writing, editing, and publishing the book?
I’ve written fiction for several years, and I wanted to try my hand at writing non-fiction, specifically something that could be of use to people (I love helping people). A lot of friends, classmates, and colleagues come to me for travel planning advice, so it made perfect sense that I’d write a book about that.
The writing process was actually very quick – I had the whole manuscript done in two weeks as it literally just poured out of my head and onto the page. During the planning process, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough content, but as soon as I started writing I realized I had so much to say and all the little tips and anecdotes to share.
Once I’d done a few rounds of edits and rewrites myself, I sent it off to be professionally edited. I’m so glad I took this step – she really raised my book up to another level! I also had help for the cover, from a professional designer, which vastly improved it from the original concept I’d had.
Publishing via Amazon was a mixed experience. A lot of frustrations and difficulties – exhausting at the last hurdle – but I got there. I’m proud of myself that I stuck it out, and I’m now a published author.
You should be proud! If you had to start at the beginning and write the book again, would you do anything differently?
I had quite a few comments from people who know me that they wanted more of my own travel experiences in there, more of those little anecdotes. I was hesitant to make it too much about me, so I didn’t listen to the first couple of people who gave me this feedback, but now I’ve heard that from many more people I’m thinking they might have had a point? So, maybe that would be what I’d do differently – including more personal stories to illustrate the stages of planning a trip.
Also, I’d definitely get onto interviewing people much earlier in the process – I didn’t take into account how much time I should really give people to respond, and missed out on a few good interviews because of that.
What advice then do you have for aspiring writers ready to write and publish their first book?
I’ve wanted to publish a book for years; I’ve written several but this is the first that I’ve actually got to this final stage. One big part of this was redefining what “success” would look like – was I wanting to make money from it, to earn prestige or validation? No, success for this book was about making something available online that would help people to travel better. If I sold a bunch of copies, made a bit of money, and people liked it, then that would be a bonus on top of the success of just doing it.
In the past I’ve been daunted by what it might take to successfully publish a book, thinking of “success” as equivalent to money and fans – if it didn’t earn X amount, if I didn’t sell X number, if X many people didn’t follow it, it would be a flop and I would be a failure. Even just writing this now, it’s ridiculous to think that I was so convinced in such a black and white vision of “success”.
If numbers like that are your goals and you’re confident about getting there then awesome, work toward that and do what you’ve got to do. But if those goals are so far away right now that it’s daunting and stopping you from actually just getting your words out there, then it’s counter-productive.
I think we can all learn something about the meaning of success. As you mentioned, it’s counter-productive to measure success on numbers. Now, let’s jump into your guide.
You talked about finding your purpose for traveling, but what would your advice be for those bombarded with images on social media that can make it a bit difficult to filter through one’s purpose?
You can find inspiration from social media, but ultimately your own purpose will be inside you. That sounds cheesy but I promise it’s true. I get it though, how easily you can be influenced and overwhelmed by social media, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to take a step back and just be with yourself.
Putting aside the people you follow, you admire, you hate, and you envy, and putting aside any thoughts of the friends, family, and strangers who follow, admire, hate or envy you … what makes you happy? What drives you to travel? And, what do you want to get out of this trip?
I think it’s especially important in the age of social media to think about these questions and get to know yourself without any thought of impressing people – this is why I say in the book that you don’t have to tell anyone your purpose, so then you don’t have to worry about being judged by it, or choosing something that people will approve of.
True! What do you suggest to travelers who are procrastinators? Will this book be for them (too)?
People procrastinate for a number of reasons – fear and doubt being two of the big ones I see in people who want to travel. Fear that they can’t save the money or it’ll ruin them financially, fear of being far from home, fear of missing out on things at home, doubt that they’re strong enough, brave enough, or capable enough to travel. Fear and doubt make people put off even beginning to plan a trip, let alone taking the steps to research and book it.
For people like this, I hope that my book can prove useful by breaking down the stages of trip planning (and budgeting!) into manageable steps, so it’s not as overwhelming or daunting as people fear it to be. My next book in this series will be about what to expect on the road, and will again hopefully take some of the fear out of travel for young people.
What do you say to someone who is torn between planning a solo or group trip?
That’s a tricky one! Both solo and group trips have multiple advantages and disadvantages, and it’s such a personal decision. I’d say a large part of the decision has to come down to whether the person is aligned with the group in terms of purpose, budget, travel type and interests, or how willing to compromise they are.
Several years ago I was planning a solo trip for myself that then turned into a different trip altogether when a friend wanted to join me. Although we had similar interests and purpose, it was far from smooth sailing – things became tense when decisions had to be made about accommodation, where to eat, and how to travel as we discovered that we had very different budgets and travel style. I was much more interested in going to local restaurants and taking buses, for example, she was not at all a fan of the local food and wanted to travel comfortably by private cars.
I was willing and able financially to compromise on our transport, and she on our accommodation, but every mealtime we had the same conflict of where to eat that would satisfy us both.
In fact, I was willing and able financially to compromise on our transport, and she on our accommodation, but every mealtime we had the same conflict of where to eat that would satisfy us both.
I think it’s really important before you decide if you’re going to travel with a friend, partner, or group to really consider what you both/all want from the trip and anticipate any issues that might crop up between you. This way, you can hopefully avoid any uncomfortable too-late discoveries on the road.
There’s actually so much to say about group travel versus solo travel; all the things to consider, how to make it work, how to know when to stop trying to make it work (sometimes you just have to walk away). I’m thinking of making a bonus e-chapter about it.
I’m glad you added the final notes about ‘doing good’. It’s an important note to make about local versus foreign business. Why was it important to include it in your book and did you have a reason for placing it at the end?
I really couldn’t write a book about travel planning without adding those notes about doing good and supporting local businesses – I’ve been to many countries where the local people are struggling to keep up, and have so little support from the tourist dollar, meanwhile we tourists are blissfully unaware of their difficulties. It’s a simple but effective way to make a positive impact on the places you go – by supporting local businesses.
I struggled over where to place this chapter in the book – in my first draft it was included in one of the early chapters – but ultimately I decided on ending the book with it both: (1) to make a final point and (2) because the practices of sustainable, responsible travel can be applied at all stages of the planning process. These points about doing good cover everything, so it was impossible to find a single chronological point in which to insert it.
Apart from being an author, what are some of your other interests?
I’m a passionate photographer and love to capture people and festivals on my travels. I’m rarely without a camera in hand when I’m on the road, and one of the first phrases I always try to learn in a new language is “Can I take a photo of you?”
I like this! Very important to ask that simple question. And finally, where can we find you if we want to learn more about you?
Amazon book page here.
Amazon author page here.
Goodreads book page here.
Goodreads author page here.
Facebook book page here.