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Welcome back to our GlobetrotterGirl of the Month series. Our May GlobetrotterGirl is author, blogger and fearful adventurer Torre DeRoche. We first came across Torre through her blog, FearfulAdventurer.com, and were lucky enough to win a copy of her then self-published book, Love with a Chance of Drowning in 2011. Dani and I both burned through her true story of quitting her job in San Francisco to sail across the Pacific in a humble boat with her fairly new Argentine boyfriend. It is electrifying, death-defying and so exciting that it made me want to drop everything and go travel- except I already had! But I lost myself in her story and we both knew her book was meant for bigger things – and indeed she has now sold the rights to international publishing houses and the movie rights in Hollywood.
Her story is so inspiring, not only because of how successful the book has become, but because of the fears Torre had to confront in order to get on the boat and create this story in the first place. The biggest lesson, especially for those of you who are seriously itching to start a new life, is that the first step is the hardest – deciding to get on that boat and sail away.
Where are you from?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia. My parents are American, so I’m a dual citizen. That makes me an Aussyankie, or perhaps a Yankstralian. (Or maybe not.)
Where are you currently based? Last I had heard you were living between Australia and Thailand?
I spent the last year living in Thailand in a tiny $5-a-night cottage set in the palms at the top of a lush hill. The cottage has the most stunning view of the Gulf of Thailand, which sounds idyllic, but it’s awfully hard to get anything done with a sweeping view of the ocean violating your workspace.
I’m in Melbourne right now getting work done for the launch of my book.
Our theme for 2013 is to celebrating Breaking Free. You first ‘broke free’ by moving from Australia to California – what sparked that initial decision to leave home and move abroad?
I was bored with life in Melbourne. I’d followed a sensible path: high school, university, boyfriend, rental property, career, car, sleep, work, sleep, work… It was unfulfilling, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
My relationship of five years was coming to an unceremonious end, so I decided to get on a plane and go somewhere new to see what else life had to offer. Everything unfolded from there…
The next adventure began when you decided to sail away with Ivan. How long were you two together before you decided to join him? Was it only for love, or also for the adventure?
We were together for about eight months before I moved onto the boat.Love was a part of it, yes. But I also wanted to see the remote islands in the South Pacific, many of which can only be reached by boat. The adventure itself was very alluring, if terrifying.
What was your route, roughly? How long did it take to sail all the way?
Our plan was to sail from Los Angeles to Australia via a string of South Pacific islands. We left the itinerary open so that we could be impulsive and make discoveries along the way. The journey took us from the Marquesas Islands, to the Tuamotu Archipelago, to the Society Islands, to the Cook Islands, to Niue, Tonga, and Fiji.
We spent two years on the Pacific, but we weren’t sailing the whole time. We’d anchor in beautiful places for weeks or months before moving on to the next place by boat.
I remember being particularly attracted to how you described certain stops in the South Pacific. What were some of the highlights on the route you took?
The most incredible destination was inside a stunning, turquoise lagoon in a place called Toau. It’s an isolated spot in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia that can only be reached by boat. Just two families live there. The family welcomed us in like adopted children, and we were taken fishing and exploring every day for three weeks. There were tears when we left…
Did you always want to be a writer?
The passion for writing was there from early on, but I pursued graphic design and illustration because it seemed like a more linear and lucrative creative career path. While I love certain aspects of design, it’s not fulfilling on a deep creative level.
While living out this incredible adventure, I began writing. I loved the challenge of creating imagery with words. It’s just like painting, only you have so much more than a square canvas to say what you want to say. It’s satisfying in a way that design is not.
Did you start your blog, FearfulAdventurer.com before, during or after the trip?
While sailing I kept a blog called valiantvoyage.com for family and friends. It was a tiny blog, but the content became the foundation for my book. I didn’t keep up that blog after the sailing trip was over. However, once I’d written my manuscript, I read that publishers want authors with big platforms, so I registered fearfuladventurer.com and began blogging there in order to sell my book.
It worked. Thanks to the blog, I gained the attention of a Hollywood producer and a UK publisher.
How long after self-publishing were you approached?
Two weeks. I received a Twitter direct message from a Hollywood producer.
On success: Can you explain what that buzz was like? How many companies approached you, how did you choose?
It was totally bizarre. It still is! There is a long story that goes along with that. I’ll let you read about it here.
On taking risks: You spent the first bit down to the Mexican coast violently seasick. You were not a born sailor and scared of the ocean, but you went anyway. Why?
I was on the fence about going up until the very last second, right before we left the American continent behind. But really, deep in my heart, I think I knew I was going to go from the moment that Ivan invited me along. It was an incredible opportunity, and I knew that if I didn’t take it, I would’ve had regrets. The regrets scared me more than anything else. So even though I appeared to be on the fence, the indecision was probably just procrastination.
In addition to the seasickness, there were a few dramatic events along the way. Can you talk about the scariest moments on your journey?
Our old boat started to develop a lot of problems mid-voyage. On a passage between the Society Islands and the Cook Islands, the boat began filling up with water from two separate sources. At the same time, the engine broke, the autopilot broke, and the wind died. In the middle of nowhere, we found ourselves becalmed and sinking…
On overcoming fear:Your blog is fearfuladventurer, but you live a big, brave life. How do you manage your fear?
I used to believe that adventurers are fearless, or that you had to consider yourself as fearless in order to do anything adventurous. What I discovered through my journey, and through meeting many other sailors along the way, is that we all experience fear. Fear is a dirty word, and yet we all feel it. So by being open about fear, I wanted to set the record straight: that adventurous are not always fearless. I suppose I’m hoping to take the shame away from that. It’s okay to be afraid. We’re all afraid. But that’s no reason not to do it.
Do you think having already taken a step like moving to California made taking such a risk easier?
Yes, absolutely. It was very empowering. I’ve always been a risk-taker, though—I’m attracted to challenges because they offer opportunities for growth. The risk of heading out to sea on a small boat and facing my fear in such a severe way was a challenge that was terrifying but also incredibly exciting. I wanted to find out how something like that would change me.
On the finances: How did you fund your adventure? Are you secretly a millionaire?
The boat is the biggest cost of sailing. Once that is paid for, it’s actually a cheap way to see the world. There’s a misconception that sailing is only accessible to the grotesquely wealthy, but Ivan had to work extremely hard from a place of disadvantage to save enough money to fund the voyage. He immigrated to the US when he was 17 and he could hardly speak any English. He worked at Starbucks full-time and, while putting himself through university and paying for rent and food, he also managed to save enough money to buy his first boat. After he got his degree, he worked his way up in an IT job and put away all his earnings for a bigger boat and a sailing kitty. Ivan had been preparing to sail solo before I met him, so he had already bought the boat and fitted it out for the trip.
I was very lucky to be invited along on his ready-to-go voyage.
Now that you are working with big publishers with equally big advertising budgets, how does it feel to see giant ads and billboards of Love With a Fear of Drowning in airports and around town?
I never saw those in person, unfortunately! But seeing a photograph was pretty thrilling. It feels surreal. It’s hard to own it, to say: That’s mine! It feels like someone else’s story, someone else’s book.
Do you have a mentor? Someone you look to emulate their success?
My mentor is an imaginary beast that has been collaged in my head from many different people. It has the creative success and humility of my dad, the warmth and generosity of my mum, the stark-naked honesty of Lena Dunham, the humor of Tina Fey.
What books inspire you?
Anything by Roald Dahl, David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Douglas Kennedy, Jon Krakauer, Patrick Süskind, Elizabeth Gilbert, Suzanne Morrison, Sara Gruen, Jennifer Egan, Wally Lamb, Jean M. Auel, Nikki Gemmell, or Cheryl Strayed. Friend me on Goodreads for my full list of favorites.
What websites do you read on the daily?
I don’t read any websites on a regular basis. I tend to consume a scattered range of content, from travel blogs, to humor blogs, to YouTube videos of Louis C.K. talking about childrearing, domesticity, and divorce. I like my inspiration to come serendipitously.
I avoid reading news. This was something I decided to do after returning from two glorious, news-free years on the ocean.
What music do you listen to while writing or working? What music pumps you up?
I listened to music that captured the emotion of the scene I was writing. I had a whole soundtrack of sailing / adventure / love inspired songs to do this for me. Gamble Everything For Love by Ben Lee was great for the upbeat, lighthearted scenes in the beginning. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova was perfect for writing heartbreaking scenes towards the end.
Do you have a mantra or motto that you live your life by?
My parents raised me with the mantra, “You’re here for a good time, not for a long time.” I try to keep that in mind when I’m making decisions.
Is there still one place you haven’t yet visited that is still a dream destination?
Europe! All of it. I would also love to sail the Mediterranean.
Where can people buy your book?
Love with a Chance of Drowning is available on Amazon.com and in any place that sells books in the US, Canada, Australia and NZ. It will be launching in the UK on July 1.