I was born in England, but I didn’t like the weather so I immigrated to Australia when I was six. I decided to bring my family along as well and we all moved into a lovely hacienda in the tropical paradise of Bonbeach. Okay, it was a normal suburban house in Melbourne’s suburban sprawl, but to a family of sickly white Poms the quiet bay beach was heaven and every free day was spent frying in the sun like all good Poms do.
Up until my early twenties the only travel experience I had was our annual camping holiday a few hours from Melbourne, but not long after finishing an advertising course at university I took the big travel leap overseas and hitch-hiked 10,000 kilometres around Europe. I then spent two years working as an art director for a London advertising agency before the cold mornings finally sent me scurrying home to warmer climes.
The travel bug soon bit again and two years later I was off back to Europe to work as a tour leader for Top Deck, an 18 to 35 tour company where I escorted busloads of drunk Aussies and Kiwis from Paris to St. Petersburg to Budapest and beyond. In the winter months I worked (well, some might not call it work) as a ski guide in Switzerland, where I got paid to get up every morning and go skiing. Before my liver collapsed from all the partying I returned home three years later.
I jumped back into advertising, but two years later I got retrenched and while I was looking for work (well, while I was sitting at home watching Judge Judy) I started to write down some stories from my days on the road with Top Deck. After I’d written a couple of stories I thought: ‘Hey, this could make a really funny book’. I decided then to take four months off and told everyone I knew that I was writing a book (so that they’d keep asking how my book was going). Five months – and fourteen drafts – later I had a 78,000 word manuscript. I sent the manuscript to ten literary agents and the first four responses were rejection letters, including one agent who claimed: ‘No one wants to read that shit.’ Well, apparently they do because in the space of a week I had three agents write to me offering to take me on as a client.
I choose the agent with the posh English accent, because I thought he sounded, well… literary. He sent the manuscript off to a couple of publishers who promptly rejected it. The next publisher he tried was where I had my rather large stroke of luck. My agent had sent the manuscript to the ‘publishing editor’ who liked it, but the publisher didn’t. The publishing editor, however, was about to move jobs to another publisher, so she asked if she could take it with her. She was moving into children’s books (and Rule No.5: No Sex on the Bus was perhaps a little risqué for seven year olds), so she handed it to another publishing editor. That publishing editor didn’t really like it that much either, and wasn’t going to recommend it to the publisher. And this is where my good luck came in. The publisher (Sophie Cunningham– who is now a successful author herself) walked past the publishing editor’s desk and saw my manuscript on the top of a pile and thought the title sounded interesting and picked it up. She had a read and not long after I signed a deal with Allen & Unwin.
When Rule No.5 went on to be a bestseller with nine reprints my publisher asked me to write another one. I’m now in the middle of my eighth book.
When I’m not galivanting around the world I call Melbourne home, where I live with my American wife Beth (I met her in Bali while researching Tell Them to Get Lost) and my three little travellers (Jasmine, Luca and Rosalie).
So far I have visited 79 countries (80 if you count Tasmania). Check out the countries I’ve visited in my postcard collection here.
Travel (surprise, surprise), skiing, karaoke, eating lobster, playing guitar and piano, mountain biking, wearing hats, chocolate, hiking, cooking my award winning risotto, Elvis Presley, festivals, a good curry, Manchester United, sleeping, Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain, champagne and making love in the dunes of the Cape.
Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, PJ O’Rourke, Colin Thubron, Tony Hawks, Stanley Stewart, Dave Gorman, Danny Wallace, Michael Palin, Peter Moore, CS Lewis and the talented and very witty Brian Thacker.
Australia (sunshine, beaches, fresh seafood and Cherry Ripes)
Italy (art, history, architecture, food, wine, gelati and Italian women)
Vietnam (the people, food, landscape and very cheap beer)
Switzerland (mountains, chocolate, fondue, skiing and chocolate)
Kyrgyzstan (Switzerland, but cheaper and with World Famous Jam)
Paris (art, architecture, food, wine, baguettes and Audrey Tautou)
New York (what hasn’t it got?)
Reykjavik (THE party town)
Rio (Samba clubs, the beach and the girls from Ipanema)
Emirates (fantastic service, food and staff – oh, and they’ve given me quite a few upgrades to Business Class!)
Least Favourite Airline
British Airways (lost my bags for 10 days, long international flights with no food – oh, and they’ve never given me an upgrade)