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How I Got to Hold My Book With Both Hands

I began to write my story somewhere in Eastern Russia, in the form of a few words thrown together in an email, to some of my favorite ‘sisters’. Those precious girlfriends, those fabulous women, who are the ‘treasure’ of every woman’s life, are the reason that I wrote my story down at all.

It was solely their enthusiasm and encouragement that propelled me through the transition of jotting down the ‘odd’ sentence, to becoming a full blown passionate writing addict. Through this process, I embraced an even greater love of writing and also developed the confidence to turn my words into this, my first book.

So, my story is a raw and open account of about ”how it was” for me, a woman traveling and camping in a Land Rover from Australia to Switzerland. A monumental journey, spanning five months, over 21,000 kilometers. With a few maps and a small box of cooking utensils, we weaved our way through eleven countries.

Written from a woman’s perspective, I share both the physical expedition and my own personal, often challenging journey. The rich mixture of different cultures, through so many countries, offered a colorful tapestry of encounters. My experiences were as diverse as the spectacular landscapes we traveled through, and at times, as rugged.

From the scorching heat of the vast Gobi Desert, to the freezing “four sleeping bag” nights in the forests of Russia, we camped in 117 different places. Through Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, across the Black Sea to Bulgaria then on to Romania, Hungary, Germany, France and Switzerland.

Rensina van den Heuvel camping in Mongolia

Rensina camping in Mongolia

I really did not know what to expect before I embarked on this trip. I had no idea of what degree of difficulty I would experience, nor how great the challenges might be. However, personal challenge has always excited me. I was born for it. I jumped into the abyss.

The trip itself, had already given me so much, then to come home with an armful of diaries, I had the embryo of “Russian Documents….Mongolian Dust“. So many memories were so indelibly imprinted in my mind yet I had already forgotten ‘bits’ of the trip.

Writing whist traveling gave me many benefits but most of all it helped me to deal with the huge input of ‘daily data’, I was bombarded with.

I found that when you travel everyday and move through so many experiences, it’s virtually impossible to retain them all. You’re constantly in culturally unfamiliar territory; often interacting with non-English speaking strangers and the scenarios are always changing. Tie that in, with all the smells, sounds and all the visual stuff and it becomes a very stimulating environment. At times to the point of sensory overload which can be both challenging and exhausting.

Rensina watering horses in Mongolia

Rensina watering horses in Mongolia

The scene before you is like an ever-changing slide show, which changes moment by moment so it’s crucial to write things as they are happening. Once you’re home again and in that nice comfy, snugly and warm lounge room, you’ll forget how it felt when you had to get out of your sleeping bag, out of the car or tent and face that minus 8C, (wind chill factor minus –25C) to boil some water to get your mitts around a hot mug of anything….anything at all! Once it’s written down it’s enough of a trigger when you get home, to see your words and feel what it was like and be able to describe it in detail (with the trusty old thesaurus).

Writing the trip down in detail along the way for five months also helped me to process my experiences. Once I got home I was able to relive it all over again and appreciate it even more through writing my book.

Whilst traveling through so many countries, I felt love from many strangers……A Mongolian woman at an isolated well, deep in the Gobi Desert…..A hungry street child gazing into my eyes in Ulan Battaar……The old herdsman with blood pouring from his nose outside Olgi……. Gaileena, the Russian angel who adopted us……..The old Bulgarian herdsman, astride his tiny donkey. These incidents aren’t earth-shattering events in themselves but I attempted to describe my feelings to the reader so it may then become a heart felt and moving experience for them too. People who have read my book have often said to me, ”I feel like I’m on the trip with you!”

This is a great thing for me to hear because I know that I have been skilled (or lucky) enough to convey my personal emotional responses to them.