books, interview, interviews, opinion, travel

Talking to Torre DeRoche: Author of The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World

When it comes to people that inspire in this world, what matters most to me are the people that aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. With the amount of content out there on blogs, Instagram and various social media channels, all showcasing a perfect, filtered life, it can be hard to figure out what’s real. Especially in the realm of travel.

Not everything is/should be a flowing maxi dress, a girl clutching a straw hat hyper focused while a beautiful background is slightly blurred. Sometimes it’s losing your passport, getting horribly lost, stepping in dog poop and overpaying at a restaurant.

So much online feels like an ongoing commercial for the ideal life. The girl/boy/family/retirees quitting her/his/their soul-sucking job and traveling the world, a family hysterically grinning in every post. Each day, a different fabulous destination. It’s pretty to look at, sure, but sadists like me wonder, ok and? Was that kid throwing the mother of all fits while you attempted to take 200 photos where one person wasn’t blurred? That would be more interesting to know —and perhaps, dare I say it, a little more relatable.

That’s why I have a girl crush on Australian author, blogger, writer, blueberry-lover, Torre DeRoche.

I’ve been following her blog, fearfuladventurer.com for some time now. Her witty posts bring to light so many things that others would be shy about sharing in public: depression, the most awkward breakup of your life, the difficulty in funding a creative life, learning to love oneself.  She’s not afraid to be herself and I have read both of her books with fervor.

Her first “Love With a Chance of Drowning” focused on a love story mingled with a humorous sailing adventure around the world by a girl afraid of open water and later —heartbreak, friendship, and pilgrimages through Tuscany and India in “The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World” where not everything goes as planned, and FAF (funny as fuck).

I’ve wanted to interview her for some time and luckily she said yes. Below is our interview where you can get a girl crush on her too, and buy her books. I warned you!

Cover photo credit: Benny Capp

Ciao Torre, can you explain a little bit about your background? Where are you from and how did you get into writing?

Hello! Well… my father was an American film and television writer working in the Australia film industry and, though I grew up immersed in stories and films, writing wasn’t a path I’d anticipated for myself. I knew it was a stressful career and, with nerves like mine, I wanted a more stable and reliable life path.

I pursued a career in design and illustration instead, but then, in my mid twenties, I ended up on an unexpected seafaring adventure and felt the need to write it all down. That resulted in my first book, Love with a Chance of Drowning, which lead into a second, The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World.

I guess some vocations choose you in life, rather than the other way around.

Can you share a bit about your blog?  

Fearfuladventurer.com has evolved from being a travel blog into a more inward-bound journey, investigating fear and anxiety and the things that can hold us back from achieving wholeness. The world is a bit scary at the moment: climate change, nuclear war, global politics… and I think it’s an important time to be talking about this kind of stuff.

I’m not one for being especially serious, so I like to pepper my writing with lightheartedness and humor, which results in a genre you might call self-help meets comedy, or maybe existential panic intersecting with absurdism. I’m currently working on a series called The Illustrated Guide to Calming the F@#! Down, which is cartooned by the wonderful and hilarious Sarah Steenland.

Your first book talks a lot about love and conquering your fears of open water while your second talks of two distinct pilgrimages through both Italy and Tuscany. What was your mindset while writing each book?

I was 28 when I started writing Love with a Chance of Drowning. I had just finished sailing across most of the Pacific Ocean with my now ex, and I was a little high on pride and naïve optimism. That story is bright and sparkly as a result, fun and fast-paced.

The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World was written almost 10 years later after I’d experienced more of a range of what life has to offer – some of which, of course, is dark. Breakup. Death. Aimlessness. Disappointment.

Given that these darker experiences are an unavoidable part of life, how do we integrate them into our lives? How do we make them of value? Can we find joy even in struggle? I wanted to explore these kinds of questions, so this book is a more grown up story, set against a travel adventure.

The journey itself serves as an analogy for ageing, beginning in the more youthful, fun and fruitful setting of Italy, and moving through to the more mature, difficult and confronting India.

How did doing this pilgrimage help you with the grief you were experiencing upon losing your father and the end of your relationship? 

After suffering two losses at once, I found myself this place in life where all hope seemed lost. I didn’t really know what to do or where to go, and I was wandering around Europe when, through chance, I met a wise and exuberant woman named Masha, who was walking around the world on her own. She asked me to join her on a pilgrimage through Italy. I had nothing else to do, so I said, “Okay.” I strapped on some terrible street shoes and started walking.

It was while hiking in the Tuscan woods that I accidently discovered how to fall into “flow” – a state of being in which you’re no longer ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you’re just being with what is so, now, as it is, blisters and all. It’s a place of absolute acceptance and surrender, and it’s exquisite.

I had tried meditation in the past without success. My mind was so active that sitting in lotus trying to focus on my breath had only made my anxiety worse. Only through the repetition of walking five to ten hours a day was I able to lose myself in flow state and discover what all the mindfulness fuss is about.

[India pilgrimage: A crowd with Masha and Ajit]

The people will want to know (by the “people” I mean me), do you have any future trips down the line with Masha? How is she doing? 

She has a blog called unlikelypilgrim.com and you can follow her there. She’s been blogging lately about her own recent breakup, so I think she’s in much the same place I was at a few years ago. Heartbroken and a little lost. We don’t have any firm plans but often speak of walking another pilgrimage together. I haven’t seen her since India and miss her very much.

What would Torre of Worrier’s Guide tell Torre of Love with A Chance of Drowning if she could offer any advice?

I’ve always been the kind of person to constantly question the paths I’m taking in life. Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Was that last turn a mistake? Should I go down this avenue or this avenue? This kind of life optimizing can become obsessive and even crippling.

But what I realize, having now written two memoirs, is that it really doesn’t matter from an overarching narrative perspective which path you take. It all ends up slotting together in the end, making sense, being of value somewhere, somehow. The disparate pieces have a way of coming together. We live right up close to our lives but when you stand back and view it in retrospect – or from the perspective of a storyteller – it eventually makes up a piece of unique art. You just can’t see that at the time, because you have your face pushed up against the canvas of your own experience.

So what I would tell my earlier self is to not fret at those crossroads. There’s no right way. I would tell her to just go either one way or another and be present for the unfolding, instead of being preoccupied by a delusion of being able to pick a right path. The only “wrong” way is turning left and then spending the whole journey ruminating about not turning right.

[Hiking in India]

I read your blog post about the very awkward breakup and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for some time. How did you get through such a hard period when you were grieving instead of being able to celebrate your book’s success?

Thank you. It was quite an awful time, but life goes on. I wrote a post recently about learning how to self-love, which was a critical part of the post-breakup recovery process for me.

Things change, people and relationships evolve, is it hard to be so open in public?

Yes. But when I read an honest story written by someone else, I feel such a sense of gratitude that they’ve made themselves vulnerable so that someone else can be comforted by that human connection. I grew up reading memoirs. They enriched my emotional intelligence and empathy. That gift was given to me by authors sharing parts of themselves in uncomfortable ways, and I feel a sense of duty to pay that forward. I think the world is made better when people prioritize honesty over ego.

There is so much saturation online from travel bloggers and Instagram showcasing beautiful selfies in equally beautiful places. What I like about your book is that you don’t showcase travel as this sort of “eat, pray, I found myself” memoir but instead show a truer, more sincere side; all without trying to spin shitty situations into a positive, you just let them just be. Was that hard to do as a writer considering the constant “it all has a reason and meaning” content out there?

I remember getting emails from readers of the first book saying: “I wish I could meet a man with a boat and spend two years sailing across the ocean! But I’m stuck in {Insert miserable situation here}.” I felt bad that some readers took away this idea that you have to strike it lucky with love, money or some other fortuitous opportunity in order to have beautiful experiences. You don’t.

The beauty of life doesn’t discriminate. It’s not something that is ONLY available to the rich, the lucky, the gifted or the able-bodied. It’s not a treasure that you can only find in some exotic locale. It’s everywhere, at all times, available to everyone. The more we publish vacuous travel quotes like “The world is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page,” the more we’re telling people they can only have a full experience of life if they’re rich, unencumbered and mobile. People romanticize travel and travel is great, but so are a lot of other things in life.

My aim with the second book was to tell an adventure story that didn’t paint over the bleaker bits of life and travel, to show people that you can find hope and inspiration everywhere – even in pain and ugliness – if only you remember to stay open to it.

Speaking of often fluffy depictions of travel: What are your thoughts regarding the way people write about travel experiences and depict it on social media now?  

I remember one time I was in Thailand with my ex, high up on the hill of a gorgeous island, sitting in our bungalow accommodation that had a panoramic view of the ocean. He was scrolling Facebook when he saw a picture of Iceland. He sighed heavily and said, “I want to be there.” Thanks to social media, there always seems to be a better, prettier, happier place than where any of us are right now.

I once published a blog post about renovating that bungalow into a gorgeous little home, posting with it a photograph of me doing yoga while looking out over a blue sea on a perfect day. Behind the camera, my relationship was falling apart. I was fighting with him every day; it was the most miserable year of my life.

In part, I was publishing these beautiful images because I wanted my life to be better than it was and this was one area that made me feel in control. I could stage a shot, put it into Photoshop and make all the details perfect. I wanted to be able to do that with my life, too. Of course, I couldn’t. Social media allows us to advertise a perfected version of real life. But it’s not real life. Use with caution.

Can you offer any advice to a blogger who is looking to publish a book?

Thanks to my blog, a lot of publishers have reached out to me over the years. I credit this to always putting my best work out there and to trying to be innovative with the platform, rather than posting listicles and trying to get the most traffic. The latter approach might be a good one for monetized blogs, but the publishing world tends to pick up evergreen content with more universal appeal. If publishing is your ultimate goal, put your best writing on your blog and see what comes out of it.

This sight makes me so happy. My first book is so much less lonely now.

A post shared by Torre DeRoche (@torrederoche) on

That is seriously good advice. When you need a break from writing, what makes you happy?

Walking. Reading. Walking while reading. Coffee. Friends. Sunshine. Blueberries. My boyfriend. My boyfriend when he buys me blueberries.

I like that. Writers block. It’s a real thing, I get it all of the time. Do you have any tips on tackling that?  

Yes, me too. It sucks. I don’t have a cure. I think if somebody did, we’d all be buying that solution – and they’d be rich for it. However, this is what tends to help me:

  • Kundalini yoga – for connecting me to something bigger and shifting my focus away from ego.
  • Walking – for the endorphins and the sense of connectedness to my body and nature.
  • Limiting my social media / online use – because I think this grooms your brain for consuming rather than creating.
  • Try to be forgiving of the times when I’m blocked and not beat myself up for it, which only adds another extra layer of negativity to it all.

Kangaroo kisses on my early morning walk.

A post shared by Torre DeRoche (@torrederoche) on

What are your plans for the future Torre?

Coffee. Friends. Sunshine. Blueberries. The usual. Maybe writing some new books, this time fiction. A film script maybe.

You sure love those blueberries. Really, thank you so, so much. You are a true inspiration for me and I do hope you come and visit Florence for more of those cappuccini and spritzes.  

That would be amazing! And I’m here in Melbourne should you decide to venture down to this corner of the world. Thank you so much for the interview and all your support.

 


The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World

by Torre DeRoche

A funny and heartwarming story of one woman’s pursuit to walk off a lifetime of fear – with a soulmate, a pair of bad shoes and whole lot of wine.

Torre DeRoche is at rock bottom following a breakup coinciding with her father’s death, when she crosses paths with the goofy and spirited Masha, who is pursuing her dream of walking the world. When Masha invites Torre to join her pilgrimage through the gorgeous region of Tuscany – drinking wine, foraging wild berries, and twirling on hillsides – Torre straps on a pair of flimsy street shoes and gets rambling.

But the magical hills of Italy are nothing like the dusty and merciless roads of India where the pair wind up, after improvising a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Gandhi along his twenty-four day march to the seaside. Hoping to catch the nobleman’s fearlessness by osmosis and end the journey as two wise, svelte, and kick-ass warriors, the women are instead unravelled by worry that this might be one adventure too far. When they come face to face with their worst fears, they discover the power of friendship to save us from our darkest moments.

“A moving account of conquering fears while walking a pilgrim’s path. Also funny as f@#k.” – Janice MacLeod, author of New York Times bestseller Paris Letters

“A witty and engrossing tale of loss, pain, and transformation that captivates the reader as magically as her first book. I couldn’t put it down!” – Matt Kepnes, New York Times Bestselling Author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

“Like so many of us, Torre DeRoche is wracked with fear, doubt, uncertainty, anxiety; unlike so many of us DeRoche figured she might as well walk 250 miles through India. Which she does, with humor, grace, insight and a fair amount of grit, too, in this lovely and wholly uplifting account of confronting our fears…” – Carl Hoffman, bestselling author of Savage Harvest

Available from:

B&N
Amazon
IndieBound
iBooks
Books-A-Million

Canada:

Indigo

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6 Comment

  1. Reply
    alberto
    11.11.2017 at 11:37

    Thank you for this interview and for presenting this interesting author, I’m really intrigued by the possibility to share not only great moments over the socials, but also the difficulties of our real life, and especially in travels, all the problem you experience (which makes the really nice moments more appreciable). In my work I often have to deal with this dark side of the travel: not only the lost passport or the stolen bag, but the the disappointment of some students in realizing that Italy is not as imagined, Florence can be a depressive place and Italian language is impossible … I think is about too high expectations (and maybe expectations in general) and also, exactly, the fact that positivity has become an obligation.

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      11.11.2017 at 11:49

      Thank you for your comment Alberto! I think we owe it to ourselves to show all sides. I’m a pretty optimistic person but I feel like people would benefit from hearing the dark stories too, perhaps as a lesson but also just to know that if something happens to them (such as not really liking the place they visit), they are not alone. We are humans and not everything can be perfect all of the time. The adventure is part of the story. High expectations often equal to unrealistic expectations..

  2. Reply
    Christine Harris
    12.11.2017 at 23:38

    Thank you for this wonderful interview with Torre DeRoche. I can’t wait to read her books. Perfectionism on social media is an issue that I think successful bloggers deal with. It’s a fine line portraying inspiring stories and pictures, but just as important to be vulnerable. Humor and vulnerability is a winning combination in my opinion. Pilgrimages are a theme that keeps coming up for me lately. I’ve had my eye on the Camino and John Muir Trail in Scotland. I’m going to check out their blogs to read more on the subject.
    Thanks again! Hope you’re well.
    xoxo

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      13.11.2017 at 8:54

      Thank you Christine for leaving this kind comment. I have NO doubt that you will enjoy Torre’s books and find her sort of honesty refreshing, I know I did. There has been such a saturation in the past few years on social media that I think it has gotten to the point where it can be really annoying to see such vapid, perfect posts every single day. I get that not everyone wants to “go deep” but I just wander if the entire “quit job, must travel” is the right message to send people, instead of encouraging them to make lifestyle changes at home. The forever traveler can be a lonely one. Let me know if you end up going on one of those pilgrimages! Hope you are well too

  3. Reply
    Christine Harris
    13.11.2017 at 20:11

    It’s funny you mentioned “quit job, must travel” point. I was considering taking a year off starting next year when my daughters left for college. The plan was to write my book from cafes around Europe and blog about it. However, the thought of living out of a suitcase and nomadically wasn’t setting with me. I really want to move to a new community and finally plant roots. So now I will be focusing on exactly what you mentioned, making those lifestyle changes at home and building community. Stay tuned…

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      14.11.2017 at 9:04

      Ciao Christine. I have nothing against those who want to take a gap year, I just wonder sometimes if there is so much expectation vs. reality with how that will really turn out. I would imagine it could get very lonely, spending that amount of time in new places without really getting to know people that well because you’re leaving to another destination. This is why I would not want to be a nomadic travel blogger. I feel like there is so much to celebrate and write in our communities and that travel is just one aspect, not all, of life :). I wish you luck Christine and keep me posted on your progress :).

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