Today I’m delighted to feature adventurer turned author Gabrielle Yetter. Gabrielle’s first novel, Whisper of the Lotus, is a story based in Cambodia that captures the sights, smells and sounds of the country she loves. It was long listed in the 2019 London TLC (The Literary Consultancy) Pen Factor writing competition.
Gabrielle Yetter has a cosmopolitan background since she was born in India, raised in Bahrain, completed her schooling and worked as a journalist in South Africa, then travelled to the U.S. on holiday where she remained for more than 20 years. In 2010, she and her husband, Skip, sold their home, gave away most of their possessions and bought one-way tickets to Cambodia where she volunteered at an NGO (non-governmental organization) and wrote freelance articles for local publications and international websites. While living in Phnom Penh, Gabrielle was hired to write The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia (a book about traditional Cambodian desserts) and The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia. Together with Skip, she wrote Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure (based on their adventures and the experiences of others who made significant changes their lives), and later published two inspirational children’s books, Ogden The Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight andMartha the Blue Sheep. After leaving Cambodia in 2014, she and Skip travelled the world for five years, house-sitting and taking care of pets while working on her first novel, Whisper of the Lotus. Gabrielle and Skip now live in Eastbourne, East Sussex.
Over to Gabrielle
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
“Tchaikovsky’s Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet”. When I was a teenager living in South Africa, I’d put this record on the record player when my parents went out for the evening. I’d turn off the lights, pour a tot of Tia Maria or Cointreau, and sit in the dark listening to this gorgeous piece of music.
“I Wanna Do It All” by Terri Clark. This feels like an anthem for my life. “I wanna do it all, stand on the Great Wall, play Carnegie Hall, wanna learn how to live like Cinderella, the belle o’ the ball”. I’ve been extremely lucky as I’ve done many wonderful things in my life (including standing on the Great Wall) and I never want to stop adding more experiences.
“Coming to America” by Neil Diamond. When I was 22, my best friend and I quit our jobs and travelled to the States from our home in South Africa. I’ll never forget the excitement we felt flying into New York, and this was our theme song. I ended up staying more than 20 years, so it was a significant trip. Also, Neil Diamond is my mum’s favourite singer so there’s a double reason for picking it.
“It’s About Time” by John Denver. Many years ago, I participated in a series of mindfulness seminars and this was the first song played on the first day. It touched me then and continues to do so today as the lyrics are incredibly moving and meaningful.
“I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. This song should be everyone’s anthem for life: “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean, Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens, Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance, And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.” How can you listen to these words and not celebrate the wonder of the world?
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Music. Whenever I feel down, I plug in my earphones and pick a soundtrack that will make me happy (I’ve even been known to select disco) then dance and sing (quietly) as I walk along the street. There are so many pieces of music that move me, inspire me, and give me pause to observe the brilliance of song writers and composers that I’d find it hard to live in a world without music.
Animals. After Skip and I left Cambodia, we spent almost five years housesitting around the world, taking care of people’s homes and pets. We’re both great animal lovers so this gave us the chance to be temporary owners of dozens of dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, and even a group of alpacas. We’re unable to have pets in our place in England so I made a collage of photos of all the animals we encountered during those years and hung it on the wall.
An electric blanket. I’ve always hated the cold, so when we moved to England a couple of years ago, one of my first purchases was an electric blanket. And every night I thank the electric gods for blessing me with a warm bed to get into.
Internet. Since we have friends and family around the world, the magic of the internet brings them close. We chat with tuk-tuk drivers in Phnom Penh, a tour guide in Varanasi, a chef in Namibia and a driver in Morocco – all of whom we met on our travels – and it’s also a wonderful resource for writing and connecting with other authors and sharing stories of inspiration and information.
Contact lenses. Without those wonderful slivers of plastic in my eyes, everything would be very blurry.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
The greatest source of happiness comes from helping others.
Stop worrying about fitting in.
Never take anything or anyone for granted. Things change, literally, in a heartbeat.
Listen. Empathise. Pay attention. Don’t judge. That’s how you learn.
Take time to watch sunsets, walk on the beach, play with puppies, and talk to strangers. The little things are really the big things.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
My first job was working as a reporter on The Evening Post newspaper in Port Elizabeth where I wrote the “Action Girl” feature. This meant I learned to fly a plane, hang glide, scuba dive, and swing on a circus trapeze, so I could write about these experiences for the paper. I chickened out when they suggested skydiving.
In my 20s, I was on a TV informercial for the Flowbee haircutting tool. I later discovered the informercial was featured in the background of one of the first scenes of “The Green Mile”. Yes, you can actually hear my voice saying, “You can take my husband, you can take my kids, but please don’t take my Flowbee!”
I worked in Club Med Cancun for six months and performed in the waterski show as the top person on the pyramid.
As a reporter in Johannesburg, I interviewed Cliff Richard, Spike Milligan, David Carradine, Christopher Atkins and the Osmond Brothers, among others (and Jay Osmond asked me out on a “date” walking around a shopping centre).
I was once winched down from a helicopter and landed on a beach to hand out promotional leaflets.
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
Stay healthy. I have been blessed in having extraordinarily good health and would like to remain this way.
Get a dog. Or a cat. Or both.
Go back to India. I was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) and never had a desire to return until Skip and I spent a month there several years ago. I feel in love with the vibrancy, the people, the contrasts and the intensity of life and would love to explore more of this fascinating country.
Waterski. It has been too many years since Club Med and I’m dying to do it again. Just in a warmer climate. Or in a wetsuit.
Probably what any writer will tell you: become recognised for my writing.
Thank you so much for joining me and sharing Gabrielle. I love your music choices, Tchaikovsky’s Love theme from Romeo and Juliet is beautiful so it was lovely to have the opportunity to listen to it again. John Denver is also a favourite of mine, I always loved his voice and his philosophy. I am also a fan of the electric blanket, I’m a cold body too, and have to wear socks in bed, virtually every night (definitely passion killers). If my feet are cold I can’t sleep, getting into a warm bed courtesy of my electric blanket removes that anxiety. I love your sheer joy of living. I’ve always believed in taking any opportunities to travel that have come my way, because that chance might not happen again. I don’t want to reach old age regretting things I haven’t done but had the chance to do. I’m delighted to see that won’t be an issue for, what amazing memories you’ve made! I hope that your good health continues so waterskiing remains an option as well as return trip to Mumbai. Here’s a general toast to a future of adventures and a four legged companion.
Whisper of the Lotus
A buzz sounded from inside Charlotte’s handbag, so she stopped and fumbled for the mobile phone she’d switched on after landing. Surely nobody would be contacting her here. Her fingers curled around it and she flipped open the case and checked the message: Welcome to Cambodia, Charlotte. You have 57 days
Sometimes you have to go a long way from home to come full circle back to discover what was right in front of you.
Charlotte’s mundane, dead-end life lacked excitement. She never imagined that sitting on a plane to Cambodia, struggling with her fear of flying, would lead to her being befriended by a Rashid, an old man whose tragic secret would take her on a mystery tour of discovery.
In a land of golden temples, orange-clad monks, and smiling people, Charlotte discovers nothing is as she’d expected. She also never imagined the journey would take her back to the night when her father walked out on the family.
And who was Rashid? Was he just a kindly old man, or was there something deeper sewn into the exquisite fabric of his life?
The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia
Instant Best-Seller! The Definitive Guide to Moving to SouthEast Asia: Cambodia is an insider’s advice to discovering all that Cambodia has to offer. It’s at once a travel guide and a relocation guide for expats.
Written by an expat who moved to and works in Cambodia, this book covers all you need to know to visit or relocate to Cambodia.
In these pages, you’ll read about the exquisite contrasts of Cambodia. You’ll learn about a country with beautiful people and a corrupt government. You’ll discover places where you can get a massage on the beach or hike through a jungle to a lush waterfall. You’ll find out how to renew your visa and where to look for networking opportunities.
Whether you’re planning to travel to Cambodia for two years or two weeks, you will get an insight into the lesser-known places and customs of this fascinating country.
Just Go : Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure (written with Skip Yetter)
In 2010, Skip and Gabi Yetter quit their jobs, sold their home, gave away most of their possessions and bought one-way tickets to Cambodia. They wanted to see more, do more, experience new things and break away from their traditional lifestyle. Along the way, they met dozens of people like themselves: individuals, couples and families who’d decided to opt out of conventional lifestyles and travel to other parts of the world – whether in midlife or just starting out.
Just Go! is about that journey. It’s about discovering ways to make a change-whether it’s quitting a job, moving across the world or finding a new direction. It’s about developing tools, plans and checklists so you can re-chart your life. Written by two career journalists, Just Go! is a self-help book and a true-life storybook for anyone considering, procrastinating, researching or thinking about stepping off the treadmill to explore new horizons.
Once Upon an Expat : An Anthology edited by Lisa Webb
Whether you’ve made the leap abroad yourself, or you’re simply curious about what it’s like to set up life in a foreign country, Once Upon An Expat will not disappoint. With brave tales of life outside the comfort zone, the contributing authors will have you craving adventure as they share stories from their not-so-ordinary lives around the world.
These stories will transport you to the streets of Libya, boulangeries in France, a hospital in Kazakhstan, and a strange situation in a Saudi Arabian security office. Through the pages of this book, laugh your way through crazy family adventures in a tropical jungle and share in the sorrow of grieving from afar. Discover how to get a perfect Brazilian body, go falconing in the Middle East, and take away insight on being raised abroad from a Dutch doctor born in an African bush camp.
Join us on this journey and along the way meet a tribe of global souls who together make up this heartwarming and at times hilarious anthology.
Martha the Blue Sheep
When an accident made Martha’s coat blue, her world turned upside down. She was no longer like the rest of the flock. She stood out and she didn’t like it. She wanted to fit in.
But a series of surprising events and the help of an unexpected friend showed Martha that being different could be a blessing, not a curse.
Martha, The Blue Sheep is a story about acceptance, tolerance and diversity. It’s a charming story to inspire children not to be just one of the flock, but to celebrate being an individual who brings richness and colour to the world.
Ogden, the Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight
Ogden lived in a little plastic bag at the fairground.
One day, everything changed and his life was turned upside down.
He found himself in the middle of a huge river and didn’t know how to cope.
Then a new friend came along and showed him a new way to overcome his fears and find the courage to explore.
And Ogden discovered there was a new, magical world out there for him!
Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight, is a story about embracing change and finding happiness by taking risks and exploring the edges of your comfort zone.
It’s an inspirational, touching story with beautiful, positive images for readers of all ages.