This is not a guide on how to get a book published. I said it first because I wanted to get that out of the way. As much as I would like to give advice on the matter, I can’t because quite frankly I don’t have a clue even though I did it (you will see very soon why…). However, this is a post that will hopefully inspire you to a) solo travel b) follow your dreams whatever they may be and c) buy my book of course! After all, a girl has gotta pay for her next flight.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”

I dare say that all writers have two things in common: we write to be read and getting a publisher is pretty much better than finding the holy grail or leftover pizza for breakfast. That goes for anybody who writes regardless of genre or medium.

While I definitely wouldn’t write if it wasn’t for you, I never really dreamed of writing a book or getting a publisher. Honestly, I thought book publishing was for ‘real’ writers, an unattainable goal, so why should I even think about it? I considered myself ‘just’ a blogger and had no intention of becoming yet another self-publishing one with an e-book on how to become a digital nomad or 1001 travel hacks. Not that there is anything wrong with either, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

When I first started here my friend who is a journalist referred me to Travelettes with the words “your stories are so funny, more people should read them”. I was content with this assessment of my skill. I didn’t call myself a journalist or an author, I just wrote my presumingly funny stories and traveled. Making someone laugh and maybe inspire to travel too was enough.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

That all changed last year in January when I was sitting on my cousin’s couch in Cape Town, cuddling with Archie the bull terrier and got an email from an editor at Rowohlt Verlag in Germany.

In her mail, she wrote that she had long toyed with the idea of publishing a book about solo travel and after reading my blog, The Midnight Blue Elephant, she felt confident that she had now found the author for that book. Would I be keen to write it? My first reaction was to email her back “Are you fucking kidding me?” – yes, these exact words. Luckily I didn’t but took a deep breath, called my mother to discuss, and then wrote her back saying the above but a lot more politely and ending with a “yes please, I want to write that book!”
While I didn’t quite understand what had just happened or what I had done to deserve it, I did realize that this was not only the equivalent of pizza for breakfast but the heart’s desire I never knew I had.

I still don’t know if I was just lucky but all of a sudden it all started to move quickly. We talked ideas, why I was a great fit to write a book about solo travel even though I don’t like to call myself a solo traveler, what format it would be, and what we felt was important to include. I started by writing an outline and a 30-page proposal which was approved and I was sent a contract with an offer. The latter was a reality check. Let’s just say with all the excitement and anticipation I hadn’t quite realized that writing a book wasn’t going to make me a millionaire overnight.

Mind you, money has never been a big motivator for me and now I had to actually sit down and write a book. Talk about Challenge accepted! In order to have the right and inspiring environment aka no gray Hamburg skies, I decided to follow in the footsteps of Eat Pray Love and go to Bali for three months. There was sunshine, diving, and wifi – all I needed to write a book.

Writing a book was a lot easier than I expected in some ways and a lot harder in others. For me timing was key. The freedom to write when the muse struck, but to have a structure to follow at times when I couldn’t find any inspiration at all.
The biggest hurdle? Writing in German. While German is my mother tongue my writing language has been English for the past 15 years and I wondered – would I be witty and informative in German as well? Would I still have my distinct voice?

“Everything stinks till it’s finished.”

After reading the intro to my journalist friend, holding my pages with trembling hands, she chuckled and sighed. “Oh good, I wasn’t sure if you could write in German, but you still got it!” That helped for a few moments but as soon as I was alone with my words, doubt came back. Sometimes it, whatever that may have been, was definitely there. Words, witty and thoughtful, poured onto the pages and sometimes I had to look for it under the covers of my bed (that’s where I do most of my writing).

Some days I wrote 10 pages and the next day I declared them crappy and deleted half of them, almost throwing my laptop against the wall in frustration. It was a few steps forward and a few steps back with detours and reroutes. Sometimes it was boring, sometimes downright excruciating work mixed with the recurring question – what did my editor see in me that I often had such a hard time seeing in myself?

Luckily there were other times. Times when it was so easy that I thought I was doing it all wrong, this whole book writing thing. Chapters were flying out of me, thoughts were forming so quickly I couldn’t type fast enough, and I felt like I had found my purpose in my little Bali home. All of a sudden the term “author” seemed fitting.

“And will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

With every chapter I wrote, I also realized more and more that I am in fact an innate solo traveler, though I may not like the label. While I sometimes travel with friends, groups, my dad and lately my boyfriend, I love being on my own and relish the time I have with just me. I don’t get bored, I am not lonely and I don’t even mind eating on my own (in fact, I wrote an entire chapter about that). The thing is, I love traveling and I will never let a lack of a travel partner keep me from doing it. So in my mind, I am not just a solo traveler, I am just a girl who travels. But yeah, that girl just wrote a book about it and looking back on the process it is something I am damn proud of.

As I said at the beginning this is not a guide on how to get a book published. There are many others much more qualified who have surely written about the topic, maybe even done an e-book. My case was luck, fate, being at the right time at the right place – I am still not sure.
However, I will say this – if you want to be read and maybe be published, you need to write. Write often, write about everything and anything, write with passion. Find your voice and stick to your guns, believe in yourself and just do it. Even if your hands tremble and doubt sits next to you in bed.

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So get on your way!”

That doesn’t only apply to writing, of course, it applies to anything in life. When you follow your dreams and work hard sometimes the impossible will happen when you least expect it. Or when you are just sitting on a couch, cuddling with a bull terrier.

My book is called Solotrip and it comes out today – hurrah! You will find loads of practical tips covering everything from the dreaded dinner for one to how to deal with parents who are not on board with your solo travel plans. In addition, I have included some of my favorite solo travel routes, anecdotes and lots of inspiration to get you going. For now, the book is only available in German and you can find it here or in your local bookshop (and hopefully soon in many more languages).

I am also giving 5 copies away – if you are keen to have one please leave a comment below and tell me why you think you should have this book in your life, and what you would like get out of it.

Picture of me & Archie by my amazingly talented brother and quotes by Dr. Seuss, who always knows best!

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!