Steve and Jenny’s enthusiasm and determination outweighed their cycling, map reading and foreign language skills, and led them on an adventure across five countries in 90 days.
It was 1984, well before the internet and Brexit, when cycling had yet to become a passion for ‘middle aged men in Lycra’. But … riding was the cheapest way to travel, so Steve (an Englishman) and Jenny (an Aussie) took to the road – peddling up mountains, through medieval towns and along the byways of Europe. With humour and insight, Steve recalls a time when going ‘off grid’ wasn’t an option for which you were charged extra.
On their journey, they experienced very different ways of life from their own in London and Sydney. From the French and their love of food and life; the Italians, who seemed to hug everything and everyone in a passionate embrace; the Swiss with their well-ordered existence; the Germans, who closely resembled the British but with better beer; and finally, to the Dutch, whose capital Amsterdam had a laissez faire attitude other cities could only dream about.
Europe Over the Handlebars is a nostalgic return to the days when physical maps, Walkmans and phone boxes were considered modern travel essentials. It will delight anyone who has a love for Europe, especially in its pre-Euro diversity.
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know
As a very young man I had a brief spell in a print finisher’s factory, helping to bind all sorts of books, including novels. Now I aspire to write them and I love the symmetry of that journey.
Why did you choose the themes in your book and were you aware of them from the start?
This was something I had been meaning to write about for at least 20 years and, although I had plenty of personal reference material, the specific themes only became obvious once I had re-visited the actual journey and re-read my journal from the time.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
I found it surprisingly easy to write the first draft and thoroughly enjoyed the process. But, I was the beneficiary of being mostly locked-down with my family for my initial 4-month writing period in 2021, so I faced far fewer external distractions than would normally be the case. My main challenge was to avoid the trap of looking for perfection in every word in the early re-drafts of the manuscript — I had to remind myself to look for gaps and improvements that could be made to the flow of the story.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
This is my first book and so the answer to the question is obviously yes — so far. However, I’m planning something different for my second novel.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
As a relatively new author, they are mostly a hangover from my professional life, when writing to persuade people to a specific course of action was part of my job. Once I have a basic idea for a story, I like to write a synopsis to see whether it can be easily summarised and if it resonates. If it does, I then try to map out a storyline or arc, with the key categories and themes I want to develop. I then leave it for a while and come back to look for obvious flaws in the logic or other gaps in the story. If it seems to work, I’ll start a mind map against which I can dump ideas and develop the story.
With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?
Try to say more while writing less!
If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?
I was fortunate to work with a very patient professional editor and they were extremely helpful. Especially in relation to phrasing and objectivity. Suggesting alternates where I had become too close to the action — such as helping me to ‘kill’ some paragraphs which, though I was attached to them, really didn’t work in the context.
What’s next for your writing?
I’m writing a fictional novel, which contains both historical and contemporary dimensions. I hope it will be an entertaining story and may even provide an avenue for the reader to reflect on their own choices.
I’m a Londoner by birth and hadn’t spent much time overseas until my early 20s, when I made a life-changing decision to travel to the other side of the world on a working holiday. Since then, apart from working in business and as a consultant, I’ve been fortunate to travel the world — with Jenny, my future wife, around Europe; over the years with our family; and during my business career, until I ‘retired’.
I consider myself fortunate to have lived in Australia almost continuously for the last 35 years, apart from an energising two-and-a-half-year stint in Hong Kong, and have two adult children, Nick and Katy — both of whom remind me on a regular basis how little I actually know.