There’s no place like home, but life is too short to be lived in one place.
||New York, New York
||9 publishers interested
This book is for the wanderers and the wonderers, the dreamers and the doers, the curious and the courageous, and for anyone who wants to explore more of the world beyond what you think of as home.
The Sun Sets Anywhere is a collection of nonfiction stories that takes place across six continents - in Australia, South Africa, India, Brazil, Taiwan, Namibia, Indonesia, Spain and the US. This book chronicles events in the author's life, but the true protagonists are the places and cultures in which they unfold.
Each story can be read on its own, but all are woven together with themes that invite you to travel through these cultures. The tales told explore the intimate, the strange, and even the other-worldly, including bizarre coincidences in time and place that ponder the interconnectedness of elements in this world (and possibly beyond) that we may not fully understand.
Traveling was part of my life before it was my choice. I was raised in New York City, though my parents grew up in Hong Kong and Taiwan. We traveled often to see family in Europe and Asia, but also to less trodden countries such as Brazil, Israel and Egypt. Travel with my family never involved staying around the hotel or lying on the beach, it meant eating local food and trying to speak to people in their language.
In high school and college, I studied abroad in Switzerland and Australia. During summers, I backpacked around Europe with my sister and friends. Having to pay for my own travel, I learned a lot of money is not something you need to experience a new place. In fact, the less money I had, the more I felt tied to the culture as I lived more like a local than a foreigner.
When I entered the adult world, I fell in line along a fairly traditional path. My first job was on Wall Street, and then I moved to Silicon Valley to work in the Internet business. A few years later, I went back to school for an MBA. I felt happy enough, if a little less geographically adventurous.
Yet there was a constant whisper in my ear about discovering more of the world beyond the place I was from and where I'd chosen to make my life.
Opportunities to listen and do something nontraditional came with financial crises – first when the Internet bubble burst in 2000 and again when global markets crashed in 2008 – as traditional jobs evaporated. In 2003, I moved to Cape Town, South Africa, to volunteer at an NGO and teach yoga. In 2008, I went to India to study the discipline of yoga I practiced in its birthplace. Each time I came back - to the “real" world and to my business career.
But as soon as I settled back into New York life, I was already dreaming of my next trip.
Eventually, I didn't want to wait for economic turmoil to give me reason to travel. People often asked if I was running from something, and so I asked myself. Is there something you're trying to escape? I spent a lot of time alone on those travels pondering this question, searching for a complicated reason when perhaps it was simple.
I didn't see it as running away from home; I saw it as running toward the world.
Of course, I worried often and for various reasons. Despite careful budgeting, I stressed constantly I'd run out of money and then be unable to find a job when I needed one. I was concerned my travels would be viewed as a lack of seriousness and professional ambition. People asked if I'd ever be able to sustain a relationship with my constantly leaving.
Then a good friend said to me, you are one who will never be happy unless you follow your own path. But what you want is risky. So unless you're willing to pull back on your dreams, you have to learn how to manage the risk of pursuing it. I also realized the irony of stressing out so much to pursue my dream life.
So I stopped waffling. I wanted to see if I could create a life I wanted and designed. Especially as I knew this was a privilege to have, one which many people I'd met in townships and slums in developing countries did not.
The stories in this book are about me trying.
Often, these experiences were surprise and bliss in the form of stunning geography, the thrill of discovering new customs, and of course, falling in love - all amplified by experiencing them in an unfamiliar place. The tough moments are equally magnified far from home – physical dangers, heartbreak and confronting harsh realities about the way many people live in the world, all of which are more difficult to reconcile when on foreign ground.
Last year in Bali, I took a writing workshop on a whim run by Guy Vincent, the founder of a company I'd never heard of called Publishizer. Guy explained the changing dynamics of the publishing industry and the advent of self-publishing. Again, another risky desire of mine was presenting itself.
I'd kept travel journals since I was young, which piled up over the years. But I'd never tried to write anything professionally. I thought it'd be impossible to seek a publisher with no writing credits or even a blog.
But now, I had time and money saved to live for awhile. Without any more excuses that it was an impossible or irresponsible decision, I was left with just fear and doubt.
I realized, however, that if I didn't do it now, I'd have to admit either I didn't really want this dream or that I was too scared to go after it. So I knew I had to just try.
For the past year and a half I've been writing this book, which has also given me reason to travel. I wrote it mostly in Bali and Barcelona, but in small parts in New York, Shanghai, Cartagena and Rio, always in cafés and bars observing locals live life.
It's not that I'm fearless or the uncertainty has gone away. I just try to keep the desire greater than the fear, which keeps me pressing on.
Funnily enough, writing this book has connected itself back to my business career. I've always worked with Internet startups because I love innovation and disruption, and the self-publishing industry is evolving in the same manner since I started writing this book. It's fun to be a part of change, and I'm curious where the publishing industry will be by the time this book is ready to read.
If you've ever tried something that you thought was a bit unusual for you, you'll relate to (and laugh at) some of the lessons you've probably experienced and thought were catastrophic in moment too. And if you simply want to try something risky, hopefully these stories will reassure you that both the success and stumbles along the way are what ultimately create your unique story.
HOW (funds will be used)
The funds from this campaign will be used for professional editing and design, and for the first print run.
In addition, I want this book to reciprocate some of what travels give to us. When we visit a new place, we implicitly ask to be part of a community, which usually welcomes us. Although nothing is expected in return, I feel those of us fortunate to be from developed countries can contribute where impact can be great in lesser developed communities.
For each book pre-ordered in this campaign, $1 USD will go to each of three NGOs in South Africa and India whom are featured in the book:
A portion of book proceeds after publication will also go towards these NGOs.
The 60,000 word manuscript has been completed. After the crowdfunding campaign, the plan is:
Editing: The book will be edited in early 2016 by Minal Hajratwala,
the author of the award-winning epic Leaving India: My Family's Journey
from Five Villages to Five Continents (2009). Her essay “A Brief Guide
to Gender in India" is currently on the Golden Giraffes shortlist of top ten
pieces on the web for 2015. She graduated from Stanford University, was a
fellow at Columbia University, and was a 2011 Fulbright-Nehru Senior
Scholar. Minal is a writing coach, and has generously donated two rewards
for this crowdfunding campaign. (www.minalhajratwala.com)
Publication: The book is expected to be printed and delivered by mid-2016 depending on where you live. Just in time for summer reading for those in the Northern Hemisphere or a cozy winter read in the Southern Hemisphere!
My plan is to self-publish this book according to the above timeline. However, it's also possible to attract a publisher based on this campaign. If 500 copies are pre-ordered, there is a greater chance a quality publisher may be interested in distributing this book. Your support can definitely make a difference, and I am very grateful for your consideration.
If you ordered multiple copies and would like to gift one to a friend, the card below can be sent (digital or print) in time for the holidays (a great last minute gift idea!).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Someone To Watch Over (Australia 1995)
The opening chapter takes place studying abroad at university in Sydney. We discover the freedom of travel and building life in a new place away from home, but we get in a car accident with a strange coincidence tied to events in New York.
Chapter 2: To Have and Have Not (South Africa 2003-4)
The next chapter jumps forward nearly a decade, when I move to Cape Town to volunteer for an NGO and teach yoga. This chapter explores the juxtaposition of living in a country with so much wealth and devastating poverty in such close proximity.
Chapter 3: East West Medicine (South Africa 2003-4)
Still in Cape Town, I get hit by a car while crossing a road. This chapter details my recovery and opening my mind to Eastern (vs Western) medicine.
Chapter 4: Great Expectations (India 2008-9)
My first trip to India is an anticipated dream for me because of my Ashtanga Yoga practice. Despite being ready to fall in love with it, I don't. But I know yoga will always bring me back.
Chapter 5: Love Polygon (Brazil 2009)
I go to Rio de Janeiro to be with a guy I met in India. I learn quickly how different Brazilian relationship dynamics are compared to my norm, and how social norms are only defined by a singular cultural frame of reference.
Chapter 6: Stand By Your Man (Brazil 2009)
This chapter further explores the Brazilian culture, with hilarious stories of learning how to navigate life as the girlfriend of a Brazilian.
Chapter 7: Saying Goodbye (Taiwan 2010)
This chapter tells the story of my grandmother's funeral in Taiwan, and examines how some customs, even from your own heritage, can seem unfamiliar and even intimidating at first, yet often there is a reason to trust them.
Chapter 8: Deserted Dreams (Namibia 2013)
I return to Southern Africa to drive through Namibia with a man on a dream trip we long planned, which is cut short when we flip our car in the middle of the desert. The accident occurs exactly ten years to the date of my previous accident in South Africa.
Chapter 9: Restoration (South Africa 2013-4)
After Namibia, I return to Cape Town to heal from the accident. Being back in a place that was once home to me, I grapple with restoration of hope, both for aborted dreams and love.
Chapter 10: Looking into the Past (Indonesia 2014)
In Bali, I seek out a healing session to explore why I've had three car accidents while traveling abroad. Venturing into this realm brings up questions about the interconnectedness of events in the universe (and beyond), whether I believe it or if it can be proven, and ultimately, whether or not it matters.
Chapter 11: Infinite Love (Indonesia / Spain 2014)
This chapter uses a story as parody to probe the meaning of spirituality, and whether the pursuit of these practices can be misused to enable selfish or narcissistic behavior.
Chapter 12: Epilogue
The final chapter explores the meaning of home and perhaps redefines it in the context of the world.
SAMPLE CHAPTER - EXCERPT FROM BOOK
From Chapter 8, Deserted Dreams
The urgency in his voice propels me as I tighten my stomach muscles
and press both arms against the car's frame, trying to brace myself upside
down. I scramble out through my shattered window. Markus follows, pushing
me away from the car as fast as possible.
We run onto the hot sand of the Namibian desert road. That's when he
notices petrol dribbling down the sides of our overturned car. He runs back to
switch off the engine and comes back to me.
“Are you okay?" He looks me up and down. I nod, as I don't feel anything hurting. Then we both see blood dripping from my elbow, which he inspects for shards of glass.
Markus and I met at sunset on a beach in Goa, India nearly two years earlier. From almost that moment, we talked about traveling in Africa together. Driving alone through Namibia was our dream, for which we had specifically bought this car.
Since it hasn't exploded, Markus walks back to it and begins tossing our
bags out onto the road. They spray dust as they land on the hot sand. He
searches through them for our first aid kit. I watch as our carefully packed
belongings tumble out and gather a coat of sand.
The roof rack, built not only to carry extra jerry cans but also as a
platform for us to sit and sleep on, is smashed underneath the car's weight. I
notice how small the crushed window frame is. What if we hadn't been able to
climb out? The trunk and one side door lie flung open, suspended as
if waiting to be shut. The drawers built into the trunk's compartments have
slid out, displaying themselves as if begging us to put them back in position.
I think,will we have to leave all of our things behind to look for help?
It's about five o'clock, but the desert heat is scorching all day at this time of year. The light is as expansive as the heat is suffocating. I look around for visual cues and can see nothing except more sky and desert. The air is silent, except the sound of dust floating around me. I lick my lips, which are already chapping; I feel the sun pressing its weight into my skin, already toasting without sunscreen protection. I check our phone and as expected, no reception. No one to call for help.
I remember checking our GPS shortly before our car flipped, and telling Markus we were 6 km from a marker for a town. But a town here can easily be an uninhabited farmhouse. We're in the country with the second lowest population density on earth. Markus tells me to change out of my white dress and into the sun-proof clothes we brought to climb dunes in the unforgiving Namibian sun. He extracts shards of glass from my elbow, and the sting of the antiseptic jolts me into the awareness that I might need stitches. Still, our first concern is to find help — quickly.
He wraps a tight bandage around my elbow, forcing it to stay straight so
the wounds will close neatly.
“Do you feel dizzy or anything?" His eyes are searching me for any vital signs amiss.
"I think I'm fine. Are you okay?"
“I have something on my shoulder, but I don't want to look now. Let's go. It might be awhile. Let's take all of our water and flashlights in case we walk into the night."
His words remind me of the possibilities. “I'm scared," I tell him.
“Me too," he says, but with more confidence than I know we both feel. “But we survived."He kisses me and nudges me to get moving. We start walking, leaving everything by the side of the road.
I take his hand. It's cumbersome to move in this heat impeded by each other's stride, but for once, his German practicality doesn't take over. We try to recall what happened: We were rounding a sharp bend on a sandy road when our car started to swing from side to side. Markus wasn't driving fast, probably 50 km/hr, so I thought we'd just straighten out or, at worst, spin off the side of the road. But as he tried to correct the motion, we hit a bump that lifted the
car up, and I realized the car was starting to roll. I felt no panic; it happened as if in slow motion, without much noise. I remember bracing my arms to keep my body from hitting the side of the car as we flipped.
When we were preparing for this trip, I'd imagined sitting in Markus's arms in the silence of the Namibian landscape, staring at endless dunes and enjoying the peace we both struggled to find in the chaos of India. We fantasized aloud about what it would be like to be in the desert together. We even laughingly envisioned what we would be wearing – khaki or white, simple, cool colors to blend into the landscape.
My white dress now lies crumpled by the side of a road, stained with sand, dirt and my blood.
The silence around us feels terrifying, not peaceful. With every step we take, the sky seems to expand, the sun blisters hotter, and the road stretches longer. My elbow pulsates. This is no longer my imagination, but a reality that means no one to call and nothing to do but hope a car or a town comes along.
Suddenly, a very tangible fact materializes in my mind. It is 2013 and today is December 15. It's the same day I was injured in a car accident in South Africa — exactly ten years ago.