I am very passionate about books, so I decided to create a space where I can give some book recommendations and share some of my favorites with you!
It gives me great pleasure to introduce the first featured author Savannah Grace:
She wrote Sihpromatum – I grew my boobs in China, a memoir of her amazing adventures around the world with her family.
I was given the opportunity to read and review it. Honestly, it is one of the best books I have read in the past few years! I seriously could not put it down as it captured my attention from the get go.
Let’s learn more about her & The Watkins family
Thank you so much for talking to us at Traveller soul!
Q1. Can you tell us more about yourself and your family?
I’m Savannah Grace, born and raised in North Vancouver, Canada. I’m the youngest and probably least adventurous member of my very adventurous family. Before embarking on our big trip we had a family run activity tour company for ESL students in Vancouver which took people skydiving, bungee jumping, river rafting, skiing, etc.
We all have very different personalities which is what makes for such great reading/writing material. Ammon is the globetrotting encyclopedia, Bree is the goofy cheerleader/gymnast, Mom is almost unrealistically positive and such a free spirit, and I, well I’m basically just a big worry wart.
Ammon, Bree, Maggie & Savannah in Western China
Q2 When did you first start traveling?
By the age of 7 they’d already dragged me through 30 U.S. states on various family camping trips. At age 14 I was pulled out of school, this time to backpack around the world for an amazing 4 years. I think of 14 as when it all really started because it was my first international trip. I’m 22 now and couldn’t be happier about all the wonderful experiences I’ve had. I’ve visited 98 countries thus far and am currently living with my Dutch partner in The Netherlands, where I continue to travel and follow my writing dream.
Q3 What brought about that round the world trip and how long did it last?
My parents separated and this triggered the changes in our lives. Going travelling was my mom’s idea, triggered by my aunt asking her “what do you want to do? Don’t do what you think you HAVE to do.” My mom originally was just going to continue to run the family business without my dad, but when this question was laid in her path, she had a very strong feeling we needed to stay together as a family and see the world. After working full-time and being a mother and wife since the young age of 19, this was her chance to change her life and do what she wanted, a luxury she never really had.
The trip was initially meant to be a one year backpacking trip, but we soon realized that we were keeping such a tight budget that we could afford to travel much longer than intended. Since everything was packed up and sold at home, there was no schedule or responsibilities forcing us to go back. I was on the road from age 14-18 and afterwards moved to Holland. So in a sense, the trip lasted forever and it changed my life completely. I never went back to the old life.
Countries visited around the world
Q4 Did you suffer from culture shock? How did you adapt?
It was shocking, but I was impacted the most by what I lost and had to sacrifice to go on this trip. At the time I thought it was the end of my life, but it was only the start of something better. A true sihpromatum. I must admit that I suffered more from culture shock when I went home, 1.5 years later. The shock of poverty was nothing compared to the shock of wealth. It was kind of a guilty, sinful feeling. After seeing how other people around the world lived, I really felt that I didn’t need or even deserve to have all those wonderful luxuries that people back home took for granted. The imbalance in our world became so clear and it was painful to see.
Q5 In your book, Sihpromatum, you describe the sights, sounds, smells. How did you remember those years later?
The first book was the easiest because those first two months impacted me so significantly. But of course, having the help of three other people to bring those specific memories to life again helped a lot. Many travel authors are solo and can only rely on their own memory, I luckily have the benefit of having four memories to draw from. I also kept an extremely detailed journal throughout the entire journey. Looking back now I am not only grateful to myself for putting in all that time and effort, but amazed that I had such incredible self-discipline to keep at it faithfully for four years. It’s truly stunning! When you come over to Holland to visit me, I’ll let you take a look at my stack of handwritten journals. You will be blown away.
Q6 What cities or villages did you like most and which ones did you like the least?
A favorite is truly impossible!!! There’s so much beauty and adventure to enjoy in every place that I couldn’t possibly choose just one! Yanghuo, China; Metz, France; Kassa Island, Guinea; Banff and Jasper, Canada; Hampi, India; Alkmaar, Netherlands; Lisbon, Portugal; Paramaribo, Suriname; Cape Town, South Africa etc.
The very, very worst city/town/middle of nowhere hell was Irkeshtam! The word itself sends shivers up our backs. It was on the border of China crossing in from Kyrgyzstan. We arrived by truck late at night with nowhere to stay, nothing to eat, we were all sick with terrible nausea and diarrhea. It was horrendous. We found a tiny shed like house to stay, and there were 9 of us lined up on wooden planks freezing all night.
Luxor in Egypt was quite terrible, along with almost every other Egyptian city. I don’t think it’s fair to generalize an entire country, so I speak only from my personal experience having lived and worked there for 5 months. The men and women were unfriendly towards us and treated us like cheap meat. They were unfair, constantly trying to cheat us, yelling at us and unwelcoming. It was really disappointing, but the historical places there are really amazing.
Q7 Locals play an important part in your journey, who do you think helped you the most to grow in every sense?
From the first book, Future definitely played a big part in helping me to see the world in a more positive light. The general population of the places we traveled and consistently seeing their smiling faces and positive attitudes despite the poor conditions they were living in also had a big impact on me.
Tibetan kids in Lhasa
And generally in my life, mom. Literally in every sense she helped me grow. I mean what would have come of me if she hadn’t fed me all those years? She is the most positive person I’ve ever met and I truly believe that being surrounded by positive energy makes a huge difference in your life.
Q8 What are the most important lessons learned from this adventure?
As I write on my book cover, it is, “how an unwanted journey forced me to see the world with open eyes”. History comes to life, and I interacted with people I otherwise would’ve judged negatively or ignored. I learned to tough out hard situations and push myself past my limits and become stronger. I learned to appreciate and be grateful for what I have by understanding the living conditions most of the rest of the world lives in.
With homestay kids in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa
Q9 Where are you located now and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
When I was 18 I moved to Holland and now live in a beautiful little city called Alkmaar which is about 40 minutes north of Amsterdam. I love it here because it’s a great location to travel from. Since the end of our family trip I have been able to enjoy various trips and activities throughout Europe and the Caribbean.
I don’t dare to predict where I’ll be because my life has been consistently unpredictable and generally throws me into the most unusual places. I’m going to continue to pursue my writing career and hope to have at least a couple of more books published in 5 years. I really don’t know where I’ll be living or what I’ll be doing but I know it will be exciting. There are so many possibilities and yet I don’t dare predict the future, because my life has been so full of twists and turns like a roller-coaster ride I never signed up for.
Q10 Sihpromatum left me on the edge of my seat, will there be more books?
Most definitely! There will be a few more books in the series to come. I’m currently working on #2. It would be impossible for me to wrap up the entire 4 years and 80 countries in one book. The next installment covers our overland journey through Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Western China, Tibet, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and India.
The characters will continue to grow and develop, with the group dynamic ever evolving and fluctuating. New characters are introduced because a few friends from home flew out to join us for a few weeks each at different times. You will experience parts of the silk road, Tibetan monasteries, the strength of Nepali sherpas in the incredible Himalayas then live in the colors and chaos of India and then contrast this with the relaxing beauty of the Maldives. And of course with all the adventure, humour and excitement that was found in my first book too.
How can people get in touch with you if they’d like to connect with you online? (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube)
My website is www.sihpromatum.com. Here, you can read the book while following along with photos. Just find them in photos- Asia – China and Mongolia albums.
All of the interviews and media where I am featured are posted there as well as photos from the 98 countries I have visited.
There are stories from over 100 countries on our family blog which we started in 2005 :www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @Sihpromatum : https://twitter.com/Sihpromatum
You can connect with me on Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/#!/savannah.grace.549
I really appreciate if you LIKE my FB page : http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sihpromatum-I-Grew-my-Boobs-in-China/367565703312088?fref=ts
I would love readers to take the time to review my book on Amazon.com once they’ve finished reading it: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-Volume/dp/1479236659/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352234800&sr=8-1&keywords=sihpromatum
Thanks for having me and ENJOY
Savannah, we appreciate the time you took in talking with us and wish you many happy travels!
Until next time,
All the best, tashi delek