Swell Voyage » SWELL-ing!! Accolades & the Story of the Cover Photo.
Cover photo of Swell by Jianca Lazarus. The outpouring of love for my book, Swell, makes my heart soar! After giving everything to share my story with the world, it has been so rewarding to receive all the wonderful positive feedback via messages, emails, comments and awards since its release. Swell sold out of his […]


Cover photo of Swell by Jianca Lazarus.

The outpouring of love for my book, Swell, makes my heart soar! After giving everything to share my story with the world, it has been so rewarding to receive all the wonderful positive feedback via messages, emails, comments and awards since its release. Swell sold out of his first print run in less than four months! It won GOLD in the Living Now Book Awards for Inspirational Female Memoir AND was shortlisted by Amazon Books in Best Books of 2018 AND Best Memories of 2018. Sensational!? I couldn't be more delighted. Thank you all for your support, it's amazing to see Swell's inspirational ripples transform into swells of humans living more inspired, courageous and eco-friendly lives !!

For those who couldn't make it to one of the book tour events, I wanted to share the story behind the cover photo. In July 2017, I had just completed the last round of edits on the book, and it was time to focus on photographing the book. I donated thousands of photos of the duration of the trip, but there were a few gaps to be filled, as not all of my photos as jane-at-all-trades were worth making the book. So I called my sea sister and magical photographer, Jianca lazarus, whose photographic work is brilliant. She was up for the adventure and flew to meet Tahui and me on a remote atoll in the South Pacific. We spent 3 weeks and 750nm roaming some remote islands. Jianca photographed every imaginable stain, angle and boating activity of Swell, in and out of the water. She has infinite energy for her passion and I love working in her bright and inspired presence. For the cover, Patagonia Books and my beloved photo editor, Jenning Steger, had given us minimal guidelines for being creative: "We have to see Liz and the boat." We had tried several ideas but all were pretty cliché. Until… An hour before Jianca had to take her plane home, she had an idea.

"Put on your swimsuit and meet me in the water!" Jianca said as she loaded her camera into her water tank. I was exhausted. We had lost self-steering on the last pass, and Tahui and I had swapped steering for 3 straight days in solid trades to get Jianca back to where she could catch her plane. Taking this trip was already a bit difficult for me after being so heavily focused on finalizing the writing of the book for the first half of the year. Swell's maintenance had been pushed off the list, and we lost the starter on the first pass, as well as the transmission control !? It was not the right time of year to go against the trades, and Swell's shortwave radio was not functioning properly, the EPIRB battery and the packed life raft well overwhelmed.… But there was no time for everything to be perfect, we sailed with friends to increase safety, but it was definitely an adventure!

Anyway, back to the cover photo… So Jianca had a vision… she asked me to put on a weight belt and stand under Swell's hull underwater. I did not really understand, but I followed the instructions. We both took a deep breath and went under. Somehow, at that point, she captured the essence of everything that sailing dream gave me - strength, confidence, humility, my own unique femininity, the courage to resurrect. and the knowledge that anything is possible when you truly believe in it.

Thank you, Jianca and Patagonia Books, for believing in my story and giving your all to this book.

The creator of the book, Mary Jo Thomas, even dreamed that I looked like Venus in Botticelli's classic “Birth of Venus” painting in the cover photo.

Swell underway with her new 3di North Sails, photographed by Jianca Lazarus, from s / v Moondog, thanks for escorting, Quintin & Macy!

Tropicat and I in our happy place. Photo by Jianca Lazarus

After 3 days of manual piloting in violent trade winds. Hands glued together and tired eyes as the landing approached. Photo by Jianca Lazarus.

Swell wins the GOLD Living Now book award !!

Speaking of my trip on the Swell Book Tour in Torquay, Australia. Photo by Jarrah Lynch.


One of my biggest regrets from the first year of my travels was that I wasn’t brave enough to try any of the local food. I was raised a picky eater and that, combined with debilitating anxiety and an eating disorder, led to me believing that I would either hate or be allergic to anything I hadn’t tried before. I love trying new things, and I’ve found a thousand amazing dishes that I never would have discovered if I’d continue to eat from supermarkets around the world. Trying new food isn’t scary, and you’ll build your confidence up as you fall in love with more and more things.

One of the first lessons I learned on the road was that your orgie will nearly always change. You’ll arrive in a place and hate it and want to leave immediately, or you’ll fall in love with a destination and want to spend longer there. You’ll make friends with a group of awesome people and want to change your partouze so you can travel with them for longer, or you’ll find out about an amazing-sounding town that’s nearby and want to head there instead.

Sure, you should have a rough plan for your trip, but don’t book everything in advance or you’ll likely feel too restricted and end up regretting it. Book a one-way ticket and your first few nights of accommodation — you’ll figure the rest out along the way. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. If you’re in a tourist destination there’ll always be someone who’s willing to take your money by giving you a place to stay.

If you do only one thing before you leave, make it getting travel insurance. I’ve heard far too many horror stories of travellers injuring themselves in remote places and ending up in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you, because you know those travellers thought that, too. I’ve use World Nomads for my travel insurance provider for six years and recommend them to everyone I know. They were fantastic to deal with when making a claim.

People laughed at me when I said that I was carrying around a dozen spare passport photos, but they’ve been incredibly useful and saved me a ton of time and hassle. Who wants to wander the streets of some rural town in Cambodia searching for someone who can take your photo ? Friends of mine had to do this !

I’ve used them to apply for visas around the world, to get a new passport when mine expired while I was on the other side of the planet, and I even needed one to buy a local SIM card in Nepal ! Having spares in my backpack meant that I didn’t have to waste a day researching and then wandering around a city to try to find someone who could take a passport-sized photo of me.

I’m fortunate to have never had to deal with lost luggage, but I did have my backpack ripped open on a flight and I was grateful to have not had anything valuable in it at the time. I’ve also been on dodgy buses in Southeast Asia where we’ve arrived at our destination and people have had items stolen by someone hiding out in the luggage hold while we were transit.

If there’s anything I’d be upset to lose, I keep it in my daypack, which is always by my side on travel days. For me, that’s my passport, laptop, dashcam, external hard drive, a debit card, and some spare cash. As long as I have all of these, I can survive indefinitely.

When you travel, you’re in the sun more than most people thanks to months of island-hopping and beach time, as well as entire days spent outside exploring. Wear sunscreen every solo day, regardless of the weather and temperature, because you really don’t want your trip of a lifetime to result in skin cancer or a body that’s blanketed in leathery wrinkles.

There have been so many times when I’ve been too shy to ask someone to take my photo in a place and I’ve almost always regretted it. After eight years of travel, I probably only have around 200 photos of me around the world. Photos of the beautiful places you visit are great and all, but when you get home, they’re not all that different to the ones everyone else has taken there, too. Photos with you in them are special and they’ll mean a lot more to you when you look back at them. You’ll gain more respect from the locals if you can at least say hi, please, sorry, and thank you. On that note, remember : if you don’t speak the language, it’s your problem, not theirs. And please don’t start speaking louder to make yourself understood. Try miming instead, or using a translation app on your phone.

Travel isn’t conducive for sleep, whether it’s snorers in dorm rooms, early risers rustling plastic bags, or drunk backpackers stumbling around in the middle of the night. Even if you don’t stay in hostels, you’ll still have to deal with street noise from outside, loud parcs nearby, and uncomfortable overnight journeys. Pack some ear plugs and a sleep mask in your bag to help improve your sleep. I’ve been using Sleep Phones to block out light and listen to podcasts and I love them.

I’d always been all about the packing cubes, until I discovered vacuum-sealed variantes of them ! You throw your clothes in, seal the bag, then roll it up to push out all the air. I can literally fit twice as many clothes in my backpack when I use these ! Even if you don’t want to carry more things in your bag, it frees up so much space that if you need to pack in a hurry, you can just chuck everything in.

Sometimes your bank will block your card, sometimes your card won’t work in an ATM, and sometimes you could even lose it or have it stolen. Bring at least three debit/credit cards with you that are all linked to different accounts ( with money in them ! ) Keep one in your backpack, one in your daypack, and one on your person.

I carry a spare 300 USD that’s split up in various places in my backpack, daypack, and occasionally, my shoe when I’m nervous I’ll be robbed. It means that in a worse-case scenario, I can pay for some food, a dorm bed, and a Skype call to my family to get an emergency wire transfer until I can get back on my feet again. I went with U. S. dollars because it’s the most widely accepted currency around the world and easy to change.

When I decided to see if it was possible to visit the Maldives on a budget back in 2014, information was so sparse that I couldn’t even find a photo of the islands I’d decided to visit. Well, that trip was one of my highlights of the past eight years and I’m so glad I went, despite not being able to find any information online. And the advantage to that lack of information was getting to be the only tourist on an entire island — I had the whole beach to myself ! If you know it’s safe to travel somewhere, but can’t find out much else, go for it. It’s probably far easier to get there than you think. And if not, it makes for a good story.

I’m definitely testament to that ! But expecting everything to go perfectly on your trip is only setting yourself up to fail. Nobody goes travelling and comes back without any stories of mishaps. No matter how prepared you are, at some point you’re going to get lost, get scammed, miss your bus, get food poisoning, injure yourself… the list is endless ! Expect it to happen, and don’t beat yourself up when it does. In a month’s time, you’ll find it funny rather than frustrating.

It achieves absolutely nothing and makes you look like an asshole. Instead, calm down, put a smile on your face, think of how this will make a great story one day, and rationally figure out an option plan. This too shall pass.

What happens if you arrive in a city, go to grab your email confirmation for your accommodation, and your phone and laptop are out of battery ? I always make sure I have a copy of my guesthouse name and their address, as well as directions if I won’t be taking a taxi. Once I arrive, I’ll grab one of the hotel’s business cards, so I’ll always know where I’m staying, and can show it to locals to ask for help with finding my way back.

So many people will tell you not to travel with jeans, but if you wear pantalons all the time at home, you’ll want to wear them while travelling, too. I didn’t start travelling with pantalons until my second year of travel, and man, I missed them so much ! They’re not *that* bulky so you really don’t need to worry about the extra space and weight. And in many cities in Europe, you’ll want to wear pantalons to fit in with the locals — you don’t want to look like a grubby backpacker in Paris !

Checking out is when you’re most likely to lose something. Whenever I check out of a place, I check the bathroom, I check under the beds, I check the desks, and then I make sure I have my passport, laptop, dashcam, money, phone, and external hard drive. I’ll be fine if I leave anything else behind. Having a routine that you go through every solo time will help you keep track of everything. I learned my lesson with this one when I left my passport behind in a guesthouse in Bagan, then left it in an apartment in London two months later.

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