Talk about living a life outside the box, Michelle Tupy, author of Love Alters, certainly accomplishes that on many fronts. What a pleasure it’s been to connect with Michelle and learn about her work and her unique lifestyle. A content writer, ghostwriter, and self-confessed lover of words, Michelle, her husband and two young children are currently travelling throughout South America on an adventure and learning experience of a lifetime.
Interviewer: Debbie McClure
Q In your latest book, Love Alters, you write about the many ways people connect and fall in love. What inspired you to produce this book?
A In truth, it was my own love story which got the ball rolling. It was a story I had been meaning to write for quite a while but I didn’t have enough substance to pen a whole book. While browsing a second-hand bookstore in Canada I stumbled across a small anthology of stories based on friendship and had an aha moment. The rest is history.
Q Where did your love story take place?
A My love story took place in China over 11 years ago. I had travelled to China to teach English with my good friend, Sharon, and on our second teaching assignment we were headed to Jilin from our home base of Changchun to work in a school for the winter holidays. Standing at the train station, also heading to Jilin, was a Canadian man named Matt. We struck up a conversation immediately and over the course of the next few months we started our courtship amongst the snowy backdrop of the wintry city. Two kids and many continents later we are still travelling and still very much in love.
Q Were you amazed at the range of the stories you received?
A At the beginning of the process I must admit I felt a little nervous. What if no one wanted to contribute to my anthology? However not long after I had put the call out, the stories came in little by little, bit by bit until I had enough to fill an anthology. I was blown away. The stories were all so different and varied and the only thing connecting them in actual fact was the theme of love. I received stories of young love, reconnected love, love that connected couples until the day they died. I must admit I shed a tear or two when I was reading them – all moving and totally inspirational in their own way.
Q How did you choose who to feature as contributors for Love Alters?
A I didn’t want the book to have different versions of the same story – I wanted to represent the young, the middle aged, the elderly – different people from all walks of life. I wanted to show that love could come to us at any time, at any age and quite often presents us with a second chance at happiness or family that a previous relationship may not have provided. So I purposefully chose a mix to fulfill my general requirements.
Q Was there one story which stood out in particular? If so, why?
A Early on in the process, Maree Crosbie sent me a beautiful story about this woman she met in hospital many years ago. Over time she learned their amazing story.
Prior to the war, Nancy had been engaged to Dennis. George was Dennis’ best friend and during the course of the relationship, a strong friendship developed between the three of them. When the war broke out, Dennis and George were sent away to fight. Then the war ended and Nancy waited for her husband-to-be to return. But his friend George returned home alone. Dennis, she was told, was believed to be a prisoner of war and the official statement received was ‘whereabouts unknown’. Finally after several years, Dennis was formally declared missing in action and believed to be dead.
Over the years Nancy and George maintained their friendship, supporting one another through life and as time passed, this genuine affection blossomed into love. After a number of years, they eventually wed, grateful that they had one another to share their life with.
Then the unexpected happened. Dennis came home. All three parties found themselves in an unavoidable situation. Nancy and Dennis were still very much in love despite Nancy’s marriage to George, however, to honour their friendship and the marriage vow made between George and Nancy, they made a pact not to act on their love. Over the years all three remained great friends helping each other through good times and bad. Dennis never married and despite her undying love for him, Nancy remained faithful to her husband George, right up until the day she died.
In this age of break-ups and divorces, you just don’t hear many stories like that these days and as I told Maree, I had to feature their story. Great fiction cannot rival stories like this.
Q How long did the book take you to produce?
A For the first year I had it slowly simmering away while my family and I were working on a travel project of our own, but I had always had the date of February 2015 at the back of my mind. As that date approached, I started to firm up the stories and contributors and arrange for a designer to help with the cover. All told, it took me two years from start to finish.
Q You and your husband made the momentous decision to gather your two young children and head out on an incredible cross-country adventure; touring South and North America. What has been the greatest personal lesson you’ve learned so far, and why?
I am not the most patient person in the world, which my husband will happily attest to. Travelling, especially to foreign countries means you have to develop or at least get used to the fact that not everything (or hardly anything) will go your way. Time is indeed relative – half an hour in Peruvian time is a whole lot longer than in the time zone I usually operate in. I am getting better but I still find much of the situations I have to deal with extremely frustrating.
Q Can you share with our readers one of your funniest stories, or more difficult trials, about your cross-cultural and/or travel quest?
A My daughter has a huge desire to be famous – whether through her singing, dancing, modelling or otherwise she doesn’t mind – so bearing this in mind, I signed her up to participate in a beauty pageant in Arequipa to gain some modelling experience. As we don’t generally travel with a formal dress or two in hand, we were told that the organisers of the pageant would take care of our “Australian” cultural dress. On the day of the pageant when we went to collect the dress, our dress was far from the traditional “Australian” outfit we were expecting and instead turned out to be more Austrian than anything representing the Australasian continents. So we had to run around – just hours before the pageant in a city we didn’t know, trying to find something suitable. While we didn’t rival the creative costumes of the Brazilians with their huge feathers and boas, we did learn that not everyone has as good a knowledge of other cultures as we do. And I would like to add, my daughter totally rocked the pageant – and I just hope we never have to do it again!
Q How do your children feel about this massively altered life-style, and what would you say are their biggest challenges to date?
A This has always been their life – they know no different. My husband and I have always travelled and since we have had children, we continue to travel. Our lifestyle is a little different to many others but we make it work for the most part. Our daughter, who is turning 10 this year, has lived in China, Australia, Canada and Peru – that’s pretty great in my book. One of the biggest challenges we face is arranging play dates for the kids, although in reality I think we struggled with it more in Canada when we had a permanent base. We are very keen to meet with other travelling families on the roads and are always looking for opportunities for the kids to make real connections with others, however briefly.
Q What would you say are your children’s greatest take-aways?
A I think for the most part we are trying to encourage our kids to have a broad awareness of the world and the people in it. We want them to understand that people, regardless of where they are from, think the same, feel the same, and love the same, despite their cultural upbringings. We want our children to be citizens of the world rather than one nation and to know that they can go, do and see whatever they want. They are a little too young to understand it all right now, but I think it will hold them in good stead when they are older.
Q Who came up with this idea, you or your husband, and how did that conversation play out?
A It was a conversation which was carried out over many years. Before coming to Peru we joked about driving from Canada, although without having lived there we didn’t really know whether it was viable. But upon seeing and hearing other travel stories, especially those stories featuring kids, we thought we may be able to just pull it off. We talked about buying a vehicle and my husband managed to find us a 1982 Volkswagen Kombi in Cusco, Peru, which we painted in bright colours in preparation for the trip. Of course the conversation is still occurring as we work out our next destination and which country we will head to next. Tomorrow we leave for Puerto Maldonado in the Amazonian jungle in Peru to start the next leg of our world schooling adventure.
Q You and your husband ran a hostel, Casa Emilia, in Cusco, Peru for twelve months and lived among the locals. What was your greatest take-away from that experience, and why?
A Yes we did – it was a lot of work and the kids really enjoyed having their own “hostel” to call home for the year. We definitely learned that the process of setting a business up in another country is not as easy as one may think. We had a lot of people promise things which just did not materialise in terms of support and assistance and in reality, we quickly learned, it was just us and was always going to be us and we just had to find a way to make things work. And that patience thing I talked about earlier, well it was needed tenfold in these circumstances.
Q The next leg of your journey has the four of you packing up your old kit bag and heading out in a van to traverse across South and North America, back up to Niagara Falls, Canada. To help you accomplish this, you managed to gather some wonderful supporters. How were you able to do this, and how can our readers contribute if interested?
A We have had an amazing amount of support for our trip from all levels – we set up a fundraiser to help us out initially selling my writing services and we have received offers of free accommodation from great sponsors like The Meeting Place in Cusco (http://www.themeetingplacecusco.com/) , Percy’s Family Home in Pisac (www.percysfamilyhome) and Anaconda Lodge in Puerto Maldonado (www.anacondalodge.com). We don’t have a huge kitty to dip into in terms of our travel fund and are actually earning and volunteering on the road as we go to help make ends meet. So any form of help or assistance we get whether on or off the road is very welcome. We are open to support in terms of financial assistance, particularly as a little can go a long way in many countries in South and Central America, and we would love to receive more accommodation offers as we travel. My husband, Matt, is a hotel manager, so is happy to work with hotels en route in exchange for help or a review or two while I am happy to assist hotels and hostels with their social media side.
Q Do you plan to write a book about your travel adventures with your family? If so, when can we expect to see it?
A Most definitely. The love story anthology whet my appetite in terms of book publication and I am planning to write a book covering our travels entitled “And Off We Went” showing that it is possible to travel with young kids and still provide them with an amazing (yet slightly alternative) education on the road. We are going to show our trials and tribulations while featuring other families who are travelling and educating on the road as well. As we don’t know how long the trip is going to take us, I am aiming for a 2017 publication date. Although for those interested and who want to see more than the snippets, we post on our Facebook page and blog, we are pre-selling the book for $40 on our website, and this presale will also include special behind the scenes access to our trip.
Q Do you intend to do a follow up anthology?
A Absolutely. I am following up the love anthology with a kindness of strangers anthology – this will have a 2016 publication date so slightly earlier than our travel adventure book. If your readers, would like to contribute a story, they can contact me direct through the Love Alters website. I am looking for true to life stories approximately 1,500-2,500 in length.
Find Michelle here: