From 2005 through 2009 Savannah traveled the world with her family. We recently came across her book and were fascinated by her travels, details from the road and depth of writing.
Recently we had the opportunity to ask her a number of questions about her travels, first book and upcoming plans.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself and how you first decided to write “Sihpromatum, I Grew My Boobs in China”.
My name is Savannah Grace, I was born and raised in North and West Vancouver, Canada. I am the youngest member of a world travelling family and have visited 98 countries. The idea of writing this book was put in the air early on in our adventure, as evidenced in journal entries I’d written in Mongolia. Once our adventure started developing into something bigger than any of us had ever anticipated, we were constantly being told by fellow travellers and really everybody that we needed to write a book. The giant task of picking up the pen and creating a masterpiece about our travels was almost immediately handed over to me. We felt that telling the story from my perspective as the youngest member of the group and the fact that I was forced to go was the most unique. Also, when comparing our journals I was quickly dubbed the writer in the family.
Q. Your writing is engaging and detailed – how much of the book was written based off of your journals and how much was based upon reflections after the trip?
Thank you! I recorded every day in my journal and it was used more or less as my outline after Mom had typed out the first few years later, (YES, she read all the horrible little details of my teenage mind!) and to help heighten my senses and simply refresh my memory. The journals were cut down into highlights and then I was able to elaborate and create a detailed story from there. The dialogue, bulk and flow of the book was entirely rewritten though some of the 14 year old thoughts from the book have been taken directly from my personal journal. Nothing was recorded from the first 7 chapters of the book which covered the 5 month preparation so that was entirely based off memory and reminiscing with the family. The amazing thing is that for the first year and a half of the trip, I could literally recall every SINGLE day of my life. Each day was different and even today it is still so vivid in my mind.
Q. Since your first book covered such a short part of your actual trip – do you have any upcoming plans for an additional book(s) and if so what will the focus be about?
Yes, definitely! “I Grew My Boobs in China” is only a tiny portion of what is left to come! The trip continues to get dirtier, tougher and each of the characters grows so much in their own ways. I plan to have a series of at least four books. It’s a fun, fast, easy read that keeps people wanting more, and I will definitely be giving more! We venture off into lands few have ever heard about. The focus of book #2 will be to describe the cultures, history, people we meet, expanding on the growth of each character and how their views of the world change. I will also be going more into the family dynamics and how poor Ammon is stuck with three girls while going through more remote countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Q. It has already been 7 years since your family set out on the trip – your siblings Ammon and Breanna and your mother Maggie are an integral part of the story – what are they all doing now?
Yes, and it seems like a few lifetimes have passed since then! Amazingly, after 4 years of travel, none of us has gone back to a normal routine or life. Not yet, anyway.
After visiting me in The Netherlands where I now live, Mom, on her way back from South East Asia, completely fell in love with the country and ended up moving there. She has started an import/export business but we continue to travel. It’s hard to resist a quick road trip when there are so many amazing things still to see in Europe.
Bree ended up falling in love with Ben Southall, whom we’d met and traveled with in Africa for 8 months. After the trip Ben won the Best Job in the World. They had an incredible adventure living in Australia in a million dollar house on Hamilton Island being filmed and escorted everywhere. Private jets, scuba diving etc. was the polar opposite of our formal travel style. After that incredible experience she moved back to Vancouver and has started a successful business selling health products.
And Ammon, our trusty leader, is still a nomad 7 years later. This year alone he has backpacked through Central Africa including countries such as Cameroon, Ethiopia and Chad where he volunteered to help film and document an NGO project. He also visited Iran and Iraq. Of course, he is still on a ridiculously low budget!!! Big surprise 😉
Q. At the age of 14, your lack of travel experience and overcoming your own fears makes for a very interesting read. At what point on the overall trip did you start enjoying the adventures and truly get into the spirit of independent travel?
The entire journey was a big up and down roller coaster. It had its highs and it had its lows. The whole journey was a big learning period for me. Travel became my lifestyle so it didn’t come without challenges and fears like anyone has in normal life, especially teenagers. I think no matter where in the world you are, you are still a teenager with mood swings and a pressing desire to find yourself in the world but every day was a new experience and kept my mind occupied. It wasn’t until I met the love of my life in Africa that I truly enjoyed myself. Yes, perhaps I’m a hopeless romantic :).
Q. Any recommendations for someone interested in taking a long trip such as the one your family went on? Planning, preparation, where to start?
I would recommend starting in either Asia or Europe. Europe is more expensive but very accessible, people speak English and there is so much to see. Asia is safe, beautiful and cheap…
If you’re doing extended travel my number one advice would be not to be too restricted by a schedule. Be open and free to new things and go with the flow because travelling shouldn’t be a quest or mission, it is a journey. Let all of your worries go and enjoy every second. One of my biggest regrets would be not living in the moment.
Oh, and spend more money than Ammon!!
A few others:
– Do your research on the country, visas and vaccinations
– Plan around the weather such as when the wet and dry seasons occur
– Take breaks when you get burnt out
– Bucket list. Have some personal highlights in mind so you feel enthusiastic
– Be respectful of the culture (clothing, etiquette)
– Try new things and don’t be afraid to get down and dirty
– Meet the people
– Start somewhere you have a genuine interest
Q. What defines a “good” trip for you?
The unexpected encounters and the people that you meet are the ones which make the difference. Your personal experiences in a country can give you an entirely different impression from someone else’s in the same country. You have to have the right mentality and turn lemons into lemonade.
The ultimate number one thing that defines a good trip for me is being able to share it with someone I love. I feel so blessed that I was able to share hundreds of unforgettable memories with my family. I love them so much.
Q. You have been to nearly 100 countries – what perspective have you gained from all of these travels?
I am an entirely different person as a result of this trip. I sometimes shudder, to think what my life would have been without it. I learned so much about the world, people, cultures, history and most importantly myself and my family. I discovered my strengths, pushed myself to achieve goals I considered impossible and learned that dreams are worth following! This is a world full of possibilities.
I learned to appreciate and be grateful for the things I have, which is something I try not to lose. I realized that I don’t NEED all those things I thought I needed when I was living with millionaires’ kids in Vancouver.
People are nice everywhere in the world, and we all have the same basic wants and needs. A world considered to be wrought with hunger, despair, corruption and danger turned out to be one full of love, family values and respect. Ironically, it seems that the less people have the more willing they are to share.
Q. The original plan was to travel for one year – it became 4 years! Was this a group decision to keep traveling longer and was everyone ok with that? Did any of your family members have to work while on the road to support this traveling extra time?
The four years came completely out of left field! Though, Bree had been saying “I want to travel for five years” from the very beginning so maybe that had an effect. Ammon has always been a traveler so the longer the better for him. The further we traveled and the more we saw, the more we realized how much there was left to see and explore. I had mixed feelings a lot of the time, but had no choice in the matter because I really had nowhere else to go. We never had to work. Ammon’s strict unwritten budget rule book would be the explanation for that. He somehow lovingly tortured us enough to make one year’s budget last four. We did end up working as movie extras in Egypt but that was an extremely random happening. With all of us getting the occasional job we pooled our money and managed to break even on the costs of our five month stay in Egypt.
Q. Since you spent a number of years in Vancouver – what are some of your favorite places to visit in this city – and are there any recommendations you can make for first time visitors to the area?
Yes. We had the family tour business before we left and since then I have guided many visitors around to show off my hometown. Vancouver is very multicultural, stunning, outdoorsy, friendly and modern. I especially love how 20 minutes can take you from watching the seals play in the glistening ocean to the top of a breathtaking, snowy mountain. It is one of the best places on earth. But hey, maybe I am slightly biased.
A few highlights:
– Get brave and cross the swinging, wooden suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon.
– See the grizzly bears, birds of prey and lumberjack show on top of Grouse Mountain and look out over the beautiful city of Vancouver.
– Rent a pair of rollerblades or a bike at one of many nearby shops and explore Stanley Park. Experience the wonderful waterfront and towering evergreen forest.
– Take a scenic ride in a seaplane and see how some locals get to work every day.
– Go hand in hand with a dozen people and try wrapping around a giant tree in Lighthouse Park.
– Get out and see the night life downtown.
If you have time to travel outside of the city it is worth going by ferry or sea plane to Victoria. Gear up and take a whale watching trip in a small orange zodiac from the docks located next to the sea plane port.
Nearby you can find sports of all kinds: Skydiving, bungee jumping, river rafting, hang gliding, horseback riding, rock climbing, scuba diving, ski, sailing, golfing, rollercoasters, waterslides etc.
Also take the gorgeous road trip 1.5 hours to Whistler where the 2010 Olympics took place. Go in the summer to enjoy activities ranging from mountain biking, horseback riding and zip-lining or go in the winter with your skies or snowboard and float through fresh powder snow on some of the longest runs in the world.
Savannah Grace was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Youngest member of a very adventurous family, she’d visited 30 U.S. states by the age of 7 on various camping trips. At 14 she was pulled out of school to travel the world before returning home 4 years later to graduate from high school.
Now 25, she’s traveled to more than 100 countries and completed her first book “Sihpromatum – I Grew My Boobs in China”. She is currently living with her Dutch partner in The Netherlands, where she continues to write and travel.
The family travel blog started in 2005: www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com
The book is available on amazon in kindle and paperback here: http://www.amazon.com
Savannah Grace says
Thanks Dave for the interview! Love your website and the message seeing the world one step at a time.
Ksenia Anske says
Savannah, it was such a pleasure to meet you, and thank you again for delivering your book to my door – can’t wait to read it! (Well, once I’m done with The Casual Vacancy, that is 🙂
The Guy says
I’m currently reading Savannah’s book at the moment and would highly recommend it. The writing style is very descriptive and engaging with honesty, emotion and plenty of touches of humour.
The above interview does help me understand a little bit more on how the book was put together. I’m pleasantly surprised Savannah that those first few chapters were not from your journal at all, you’ve got a great memory.
Savannah Grace says
Thanks for recommending the book! So glad you loved it.
And yes, it wasn’t the easiest to write that part without any material to work with BUT those moments impacted me a lot and will not be soon forgotten. I’ll never forget that moment Mom broke the news to me, or saying goodbye to Harrison or Ammon getting cancer. Those memories are like yesterday, I still remember everything right down to the weather!!
Good job! Savannah Thank you so much for sharing you thoughts and I hope you will produce more books and update your articles for more information. Keep it up!
James Redfern says
You live an exciting life 🙂