Welcome to December Q & A. Today I’m excited to be featuring friend and new published author with her brand new book – Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary. Liesbet is literally ‘a world traveler’. She currently travels on land around the America’s with her husband and dog, but Liesbet has traveled for many years to many places, including a few years at ocean and seas on a boat(s). Can you only imagine the stories Liesbet has to tell?
Well I can because I’ve almost finished reading her book, and I’m just going to say that I love it, because I’ll be writing a review soon. So today we’re going to get some insights about Liesbet’s life of travel and how she managed to write and publish a book in her traveling life – often without internet.
Liesbet Collaert is a bilingual freelance writer, translator, editor, and photographer from Belgium who has been writing and traveling her entire life. Her work is published internationally in anthologies and magazines, including Cruising World, Blue Water Sailing, Ocean Navigator, Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, Islands, Yachting World, Sailing Today, All At Sea, Caribbean Compass, and Zeilen. She also created walking tours for Marigot and Philipsburg in St. Martin.
The author has been interviewed about her alternative lifestyle by Multihull Sailor, Modern Day Nomads, Ocean Navigator, The Wayward Home, The Professional Hobo, and Grey Globetrotters among others. She contributed to extensive cruising surveys for All At Sea and Caribbean Compass and became an assistant-editor for Caribbean Compass in January 2019.
Liesbet loves animals, nature, and the promise of adventure. A nomad since 2003, she calls herself a world citizen and currently lives “on the road” in North America with her husband and rescue dog. Find her stories and photos at www.itsirie.com and www.roamingabout.com. Plunge is her first book.
Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir, as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.
Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.
Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.
Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?
Have you ever wondered how life could be if you had made different choices? If you didn’t marry early, commit to a large loan for the house, focus on your career, start a family?
Maybe you’re just curious about how a person thinking outside the box manages? A person without boundaries, striving to be flexible, happy, and free. What you are about to read is how one such person follows her dreams, no, her intuition, and how she survives her naivety, life altering twists, and a relationship in close quarters.
Plunge is a story of what happens when you go with the flow, when you have a bright idea – or thought you had one – and ride the waves of the unknown. Ready to hop aboard and delve in?
Let’s ‘ride the waves’ a bit now with Liesbet and get to know more details
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t think there was much of a realization, but more of an “easing into” writing for me. It came naturally. As a child in Belgium, I enjoyed writing, which was done in cursive, in the form of letters to friends and essays at school. In fourth grade, one of our daily assignments was to create a journal. Half of the page in this notebook was filled with words, the other half with a drawing that accompanied the text. This journaling task was my favorite part of the day and I picked up the writing portion again when I was a teenager. Ever since I was fourteen, I’ve written a daily diary!
As I traveled throughout my twenties, I stated: “One day I will write a book.” But who hasn’t said that at some point in their lives? I wrote weekly travel reports to family and friends, first by hand, then via group emails. After a year-long RV journey in Mexico and Central America, I actually started drafting my first book. But, three months after that trip, we dove into the next adventure, and those plans were shelved. No time! New experiences to document!
In 2007, when we changed gears from overland travel to sailing the world, I started blogging. For eight years, I kept up my www.itsirie.com blog about our cruising journey in the Caribbean and the Pacific. During that time, I published articles in magazines and I could finally call myself a writer!
I guess, at some point, I had aspirations to be become a travel writer, but I quickly realized this would take away pleasure from writing and from traveling. It’s hard work, there’s a deadline and a format, your travels have a purpose other than enrichment or excitement. In my opinion, both should be done independently to produce the best results and find the most enjoyment and focus.
D.G. – Love your story about slowly becoming a blossoming writer. And I agree with you, writing about travels is exciting and a great way to document your life, but travel writing specifically, is another ballgame altogether.
Where do your book ideas grow from?
So far, I’ve only written one book. Like my articles, blog posts, and diary entries, the writing grows from personal experiences. I lead a very full, exciting, and adventurous life, by choice, and have the urge to share a lot of it – from mishaps, to amazing encounters, to tips, thoughts, and opinions. My book, a travel memoir, is written differently, however. It’s enveloped in a personal style I love to incorporate and I believe my voice – in the present – differs from other narratives.
I have an infinite amount of story and book ideas, because we never sit still to digest any of it. And, that’s a problem… Writing and working from the road – or the water – is difficult, because the lifestyle itself is challenging and exhausting. So, the combination travel + write poses issues in my daily life. Which do I pick? Do I keep exploring or do I stop (temporarily) and turn those explorations in a book?
D.G. – The inspiration will come when it’s ready. For now, you are doing all the legwork by living the experiences you can store up and discover where it will lead you next.
Do you agree with the general consensus that writers are loners?
I’ve heard and noticed often that writers are introverts. Yet, there are exceptions. People like you and me, for example. We enjoy social contact, interactions, and being out and about. I’m not a total extrovert either (I don’t like to be overstimulated, overwhelmed, or part of a massive crowd), but have personality traits from both categories. I’m a toughie to put in any kind of box!
I LOVE to be on my own. It’s when I’m most productive and self-confident; a theme I touch upon in my travel memoir, Plunge. I strive when I am by myself and can schedule my entire day around my own needs. Or not plan at all, which is more likely. I cherish my me time and feel that’s when I am truly and totally free. Does that make me a loner? Let’s just say that a balance of hermit-life and small social gatherings would make me a happy camper.
D.G. – Touche my friend. Yes, we are very similar in these traits. I love being in social environments, but I treasure my alone and writing time just as much. Writing is a solitary sport for the most part, which I’m sure attributes to the assumption that all writers are introverts. We aren’t. 🙂
Do you believe in ‘writer’s block’? If so, how do you deal with it?
I do believe in “writer’s block” and that it happens when an author is either pressured to create or spending too much time staring at a screen. I have never suffered from it, but I think it is similar to your brain being tired of … language. English is not my native tongue and I sometimes get fed up with it – I’m proficient in it, so I think, dream, talk, write, … am constantly consumed by it – when my head explodes after days of being immersed in the language, say when I’m completing a book. The result is that I don’t find the right words when trying to explain something or sentences escape my mouth that sounded different in my mind. I think “writer’s block” is similar – where you’re stuck and frustrated by a lack of cohesiveness.
Why am I not familiar with “writer’s block?” Because of my lifestyle, it is impossible for me to sit at a desk (camper table) days on end. I have lots of distractions within our surroundings, daily errands, need to walk our dog, and living 24/7 in a 75sq foot space. I crave for more writing time! On top of that, as I mentioned before, I have heaps of ideas, some of which are jotted down somewhere on my computer. So, even if I get stuck with a piece of writing, my mind and files can always produce a fresh start on something else.
D.G – I wholeheartedly agree with you, especially your point about writer’s block occurring from pressure we put on ourselves, and deadlines.
What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
I’m glad I can answer that question now. Meaning, I have self-published a book!
Because Plunge is my first book, I wanted to do it “right.” In my mind, that meant going the traditional route. Despite knowing myself and how important it is for me – as a perfectionist (ha!) – to “control” everything, be able to make adjustments, and decide the smallest details. I went all the way to reach this goal/dream/illusion: finding a Big Five publisher. Double ha! And, you’ve guessed it… No such luck. An extensive book proposal that took two months to compose, 140 personalized agent inquiries, 25 niche publisher submissions, and a year later… I went the other route.
Self-publishing is MUCH more time-consuming, complicated, exhausting, and expensive than I ever thought. If someone goes through the hassle of learning tools, researching approaches, buying ISBN- numbers, hiring an editor and cover artist, diving into the ropes of Amazon and other distributors, and so on and so on, he/she better writes more than one book! I honestly feel that after a second
book, all this extra knowledge, determination, and time commitment just might be worth it.
Of course, also knowing me, I don’t have any regrets. I had to go through these steps, experiences, and learning curves to realize what my best route was. And, now I know: self-publishing gives an author the most flexibility and control and it’s faster! I’m sure I read that somewhere before plunging into it myself, but, hey, trial and error is how I roll.
D.G. – Lol, and I’m sure I too mentioned this to you a time or two. Great summation!
What inspired you to write Plunge?
After sailing, working, and living on a small catamaran for eight years and going through heaps of emotional and physical challenges, more than the average cruiser, I felt inspired to recreate an account of some of those experiences and thoughts. It was important to me to write this travel memoir in the present tense, to invite the reader along for the ride. As the title of my book indicates, I’m not much of a planner and take things as they come. In order to rightly pull the reader into that mindset, I needed to stick to the “here and now,” although I managed to incorporate foreshadowing and flashbacks. In Plunge, you are immersed in my lifestyle and mind – and what a rollercoaster journey it is!
D.G. – I can honestly say, yes I am emmersed! And after everything you’ve been through and explored, you most certainly should have been documenting and sharing with the world. I will also note, I love your voice and delivery in your book. You write in a similar style that I write my books in – engaging and conversational.
Excerpt from the prologue of Plunge
“We’re putting this boat up for sale the moment we arrive in French Polynesia, so those islands better be the highlight of the South Pacific!” Mark barks at me before scrambling towards the autopilot.
His expression reflects the grim circumstances around us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to change them. Our sailboat is bouncing and jerking and pitching, lunging left, right, up, down, forward, backward, and everything in between.
Holding on, I gasp and shout back, “You’re kidding! I’m not ready to sell the boat yet, after all we’ve been through to get here!”
He glares at me with non-negotiable fury. Blood gushes down his forehead.
I swallow hard as half-digested crackers threaten to escape. It’s difficult to care about him when he’s this angry.
His head hurts. My stomach churns. He’s ready to give up, now, forever – to quit this lifestyle I have come to love.
Our roller coaster ride plummets into the lowest of troughs, and I hover over the foaming crests of the infinite ocean. I’d rather vomit than let his attitude drag me deeper into this depression – and I do. I look up to catch my breath and watch the horizon dance relentlessly. Deep blue, lined with white, morphs into sky blue, curved above, then below me.
I barf again.
You have to be tough to cross oceans on a small boat. These days, it’s tough to be tough. That ever-important sense of freedom I strive for tastes salty and feels confined. In the name of love and adventure, I pull my weight as a sailor. Albeit with a pale face that matches the color of our sails. And that guy I’ve been with, through sickness and health, frustrations and despair, peace and madness, anger and passion? He increasingly makes me unhappy, crushing my dreams, belittling my choices. Maybe he should get off this boat when we finally make landfall.”
Reviewed in the United States on November 24, 2020
Liesbet Collaert’s debut memoir, Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary, is one of those books I couldn’t wait to read. Who hasn’t wanted to be a wanderer, go wherever life led them, bravely face new adventures with courage and aplomb, make new friends in dozens of countries, and conquer crises as though it were easy. Me, I think ‘wandering’ is part of man’s DNA. There’s a reason we are the only species that inhabits every corner of the planet. The issue: Most of us think living requires settling down.
Liesbet didn’t–think it or do it.
She is that rare individual not afraid to explore any new country whether she speaks the language or not, no matter that she knows no one who lives there (because she’ll just make new friends). In Plunge!, we see just the sailing part of her nomadic life (in a sailboat and then a catamaran) and mostly in the Americas.
“We trust our lives and future to Irie [her catamaran]. She’s our home, our transportation, our safe haven, our irritation, our support, our biggest curse, and our greatest treasure.”
“We wake up with the sun, work in the morning, and snorkel, walk, or read in the afternoon. Then, we jump in the clear ocean to take a bath; we get wet, wash up with shampoo, and lower ourselves again to rinse off. We use our sun shower for a final freshwater rinse in the cockpit.”
“We rise early in frigid temperatures, take the wheel, test the autopilot, follow day marks and buoys, look at charts, check our depth, observe the chart plotter, and shiver non-stop. We pay attention to the route, take photos, get in line for bridge openings, and stick to a schedule of eight to ten hours on the go.”
Liesbet visits countless countries, discusses their immigration, their maritime laws, their culture of folks who sail fulltime. Liesbet and her friends are likable and interesting, the story unusual, and the settings authentic.
But as much as it is a travel story and an adventure, Plunge is a love story. Liesbet starts with a wonderful man and finds one even better but their shared life is not without problems. Of course there are problems! They live together on a small boat 24/7/365. They face issues on a daily basis most couples wouldn’t in a lifetime. They sail multiple oceans, enter numerous countries, even cross the Equator (where I found out there is little/no wind). If you don’t follow her blog, Roaming About, you’ll want to. There, I found out that she wrote this debut novel (did I say it is #1 in the Amazon category Sailing) on the road, often between Internet services.
To give a sense of the book, I wanted to quote some of my favorite lines. That list got long. I tried to shorten it which proved an exercise in futility:
“Freedom to do what I want, go where I please, and be myself, no matter what, has always been more important to me than security, comfort, routine, and keeping up appearances.”
“Most people follow a distinct path, set by social norms, dictated by society. I become antsy staying in a familiar area for months, following certain habits. It’s too restrictive.”
“…plans are written in sand at low tide.”
“…enjoy this plunge into my less than ordinary thirties.”
“Ever since I chose travel over stuff, at age 17, people have wondered whether I’m rich. I’m not. And I never will be.”
“Anything salty on a boat means trouble in the long run. It will always suck moisture from the air, acquiring a permanent state of dampness.”
See what I mean?
For anyone who’s wanted to take the road less traveled, who wondered what was in the other side of a hill, who is happy with any answer when they flip a coin, this book is for you. I read it because of my lifelong desire to do that. By the time I’d finished, I felt like I had.