Sunday, 17 July 2011

How to be a Super Woman: Meet Fanciful Alice!

1. Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself
I would describe myself as a mother, wife, writer, dreamer, vegetarian, gardener, crafty girl and most certainly the owner of itchy feet! Currently I live on a narrowboat not too far from London with my husband, young daughter and our beloved dog. I write on a freelance basis for a number of magazines about travel and sustainable living and in 2009 my first non-fiction book, Tales from a Travelling Mum, was published. 

2. Do you have a 'grand plan'? Do you think this has changed at all over the years?
I think that since f . o . r . e . v . e . r my plan has been to live a life true to my heart's desires and for as long as I can remember those desires have always been focused on the ability to travel freely, live in new and exciting places, meet and learn from inspiring people and then write about those experiences. Sometimes I think I was born with a pen and a map in my hand and I feel so blessed that thus far I have been able to develop my life so that travel and living in other countries, and in turn having the words there to share, has been a major part of it. 

When I was 17 and working in a 9-5 office job paying rent on a flat I dreamt of seeing the world, I just wasn't sure how or when it was going to happen. I would devour books from the library on travel and living abroad and spend my days clock-watching, staring out of the window day-dreaming. Eventually I did get the opportunity to do short back-packing and driving trips through France and Spain before I headed off on my first big trip to Japan for six months at age 24. You could say I was hooked then. Hooked on spending extended time in places, hooked on new sights and sounds, and in love with just getting out there and living an adventure.  

After that I landed a job writing for a tourist guide which saw me travelling the world solo - I was in heaven! I absolutely loved the thrill of being out there seeing places and meeting people, but I also realised that solo travel - although an amazing experience for me - could get lonely. On a break from that job I met my now husband and after a brief stint of settledom, in 2008 we sold up, packed our belongings and headed off around France, Spain and Portugal with a camper and a loose plan that we might find somewhere to start a new more sustainable way of life. We had a fabulous time but we didn't find the right place at that point so eventually we returned to England and for the last year or so we have been living on a narrowboat. We love it: the slower pace, the feeling of being so close to nature, the sense that we are living more lightly on the earth ... but the feet are itching and now that my daughter is a little older there is talk of another adventure.

I really believe that you see so much more, hear so much more and live so much more when you pack a bag, a tent (or a camper) and leave without a plan. This kind of simple travel, which needn't be to the ends of the earth, has always been, and still is, my favourite kind. No doubt my desire for this kind of trip came about after I read Laurie Lee's, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, many years ago. The idea of taking only what we need and really submersing ourselves in a new culture is like a drug to me and doing a major trip on foot is definitely something we have in mind. 

Of course, this constantly evolving way of living can cause frustration, but perhaps more with other people's views on how we are all supposed to live! Now I'm 35 I am becoming more open to the idea that I am simply a perpetual wanderer always looking to embrace and enjoy new experiences and places. I'm lucky that I have a husband who shares the dream and that we both believe there are huge pluses to raising a child in this perhaps slightly unorthodox way. 

So no, looking at my answer, I don't think the plan has changed at all over the years!

3. What gets you up in the morning?
My 4-year-old daughter and our dog climbing into bed... that's if the ducks haven't woken me up first tapping their beaks on the hull of the boat!

4. Run us through a typical kind of day
Well, I stay home with my young daughter while my husband works - some mornings, some afternoons. When he's not here we hang out, usually gardening, doing crafty stuff, painting, reading books or visiting her friends and my friends. When daddy gets home we normally go for a big dog walk or cycle as a family and now it's Summer, we always take a picnic. We like to spend plenty of time just hanging out together at rivers, lakes, forests, play parks, and beaches whenever we get the chance. Throw an ice-cream into the equation and that's our kind of happiness. Obviously we try to throw in travel trips whenever we can, both in England and abroad and cruise up and down the canal here in our floating home throughout the Spring and Summer months. 

I fit my writing work in during the evenings and I am also busy working on my second book, which I am writing long-hand whenever I find a spare moment before typing it up chapter by chapter. Despite temptation to write a follow-up to Tales from a Travelling Mum I have decided to follow my heart and concentrate on writing a novel, travel-inspired of course! I'm both excited and nervous about embarking on the journey towards trying to find a publisher for my fiction.

5. When you experience a setback how do you pick yourself back up again?
I believe in rolling with my feelings so if I'm feeling hit by a setback I just let myself be hit... and slowly I try to listen to my body and mind, recharging and refocusing along the way. Writing a diary helps me with this - if I can look back and see how I'm feeling on paper then I feel much more able to make greater sense of what is really going on and make plans to fix it.

6. Who or what inspires you the most?
People who follow their hearts and aren't afraid to push boundaries, step out of the box and do what makes them happy. People who have found a way to live a kind and thoughtful life submersed in nature. Close friends. My husband. My daughter. Books. There are so many books that inspire me, but perhaps sometimes it is just a few simple quotes that are enough to really touch my soul. I'm always dipping in and out of something or other. 

At the moment I'm reading 'Last Chance to See' by Douglas Adams and despite it being a great book full stop, in particular the other night I was reading a chapter on the endangered Northern White Rhinos in Garamba National Park. Here Douglas met Kes Hillman-Smith, a world renowned rhino conservationist and describes the house she lives in with her husband and their two small children: 
"It was a house they built themselves, out in the bush on the edge of the river ... when it rains they lower tarpaulins over the spaces where the windows aren't. For the two years it took them to build the house they lived in a tiny mud hut with a pet mongoose that used to dig up the floor looking for worms, a dog, two cats - and a baby."  
When I read something like this I immediately feel less crazy and most certainly inspired by the idea that life doesn't have to be all two up, two down, mortgage and new car sitting on the driveway. It can be, sure. But it doesn't have to be. That snippet of text has stuck with me the last few days.

7. We all have bad days when we doubt ourselves and our abilities. How do you get through yours?
I try to remain focused on those closest to me; those who I know really love me, support me and believe in me. Safety within a small unit of friends and family is all I need in life, that and I cry in front of a good movie, bake cakes ... and eat them.

8. What do you feel are your greatest achievements and why?
When I worked as a researcher for a tourist guide I had to visit resorts and hotels across the world and compile and write information to include in the guides. My first trip was to Canada in the middle of winter and I was s**t scared. I had fabricated the truth somewhat in my interview and had never actually driven in another country, let alone with snow chains. Getting in the hire car at the airport in the dead of night and driving around Calgary trying to find my hotel - I could have cried, screamed, thrown a tantrum and everything in between ... but I kept going and went on to drive the amazingly spectacular Icefields Parkway in a snowstorm the day before they shut the road due to bad weather. After achieving that I felt that whatever life threw at me, I could deal with it. I think many people fail to realise the strength of the human spirit and allow fear to stop them from taking leaps, but I realise from overcoming my own fears that we are all so much stronger than we believe. 

I did cry when I had to drive in Bangkok though.

9. Tell us what you think constitutes a "Super Woman" and list 3 key ingredients for success.
I have to admit to feeling a little scared when you asked me to do this interview because I certainly do not see myself as a Super Woman. For me a Super Woman - other than someone dressed in a blue and red lyrca suit - is a woman who is strong and comfortable in her own skin, driven and unafraid to try and succeed in her chosen dreams and who radiates love to those she cares about. I want to live my life learning every day, to try and be the best person I can be so that I can live the best life I can... I don't always get it right, but these are the ingredients I do my best to include in my recipe for life.

10. Final words of wisdom?
Life really isn't a dress rehearsal and just because a large percentage of people are doing one thing, it doesn't mean it has to be right for everyone. If you have a different dream about how to live, don't be afraid to get out there and live it. I truly believe that you will regret it if you don't.

You can find Alice over on her website, Etsy shopFacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Do you know someone who fits the bill of Super Woman? Even yourself - don't be shy! If you would like to take part or recommend a friend, please send a message with the details to me at giveanearthly at gmail dot com.


  1. onelittlebuffalogirl18 July 2011 at 21:46

    Wow! Really inspiring :-)

  2. I think Alice is a super woman because she is not afraid of travelling alone - which I am. And also she lives her dreams!


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