There’s no doubt about it, travel and adventure can often lead to humorous moments that remain in the memory long after the intrepid traveler is home, safe and sound. Such is the case with author Pamdiana Jones (pseudonym) in her new book, When In Roam. In addition to the memories are the lessons, the people, and the places that resonate, and sometimes even change our lives irrevocably.
Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure
Q By your own admission, you were a naïve traveler back in the ‘90s. Looking back on your experiences of that trip, given the chance, what advice would you give yourself back then?
A Yes, pretty naive. I didn’t watch or read news, I didn’t understand world politics, religions, sciences, history, cultures… It took me awhile to find my confidence in my own instincts. I really felt in-tune with it later in the trip, but wish I’d known that earlier on. I might have gone deeper into Africa and really spent time with the tribes, if I’d known I wasn’t really headed home!
Q What stands out in your mind as your most memorable event during your adventure?
A On a “life” level, it would be my father’s death, but on an adventure level getting chased by a herd of elephants in the wild animal park. You don’t forget something like that! Plus that very full day in Sumatra where I picked jungle plants for Malaria prevention tea, had leeches on me, rode an elephant through the jungle and woke up to thousands of bugs in my room. I’ve never had a day quite like that since!
Q What did you learn about yourself through that experience that you still relate to today?
A I just trust that life will be ok. I now listen immediately to my instinct and can read a situation, or a person, quite quickly from learning the subtle signs. Most people in the world are good people.
Q What did you learn about the people and cultures you encountered that surprised you?
A When I left Los Angeles, I was a bit bored of people asking me lame questions, like what I ate, did I get a haircut, did I see the latest movie? I wanted to speak about much deeper, more worldly things, like politics, religion, cultures, why we are the way we are, how we got from cavemen to now, etc… On my travels I noticed that everywhere I went, as I made new friends, they’d all ask what I ate, and if I got a haircut, the same types of questions, yet now I could appreciate them as the very act of caring. When asked what I ate for lunch showed I was truly feeling love from all different cultures. I learned we are all the same, no matter where we go. We all just love our families, like to laugh, move to music, want food in our belly, and a good night’s sleep!
Q You use a lot of self-deprecating humor in your book. What was your goal in utilizing that narrative approach?
A I’m not sure it was really a thought out goal, it’s just the way I always am! I still talk like that, even though the trip was 25 years ago.
Q What, if anything, would you change about that solo travel experience?
A At this point I would like to change nothing, because the trip as a whole was life-changing. I might have wanted to share it with someone, but then I would have been talking with them the entire time instead of making new friends. I’d love to say I wish I had more money to travel more comfortably, but then I would have stayed in a fancy hotel, and I wouldn’t have taken that local’s home to stay in and would’ve missed out on knowing these incredible locals. I wish I didn’t just have to eat so much plain rice, but it made me appreciate when I had a proper meal. I will say it took me five years to eat rice again after the trip!
Q What advice would you give to today’s solo female travelers?
A It is so very different now, with Uber, and Tinder, and WhatsApp, and phones in general. I was unable to contact my family or friends from home because it was very expensive to call, and I had to just use snail-mail, so when I sent a letter not one person wrote me back, as I was always on the move. It sounds awful, but I would tell them to put the phone away, get off social media—you don’t need the perfect Instagram picture—really feel the culture, the new scents, the new sights, the new foods, and the people. You might never get back to that place again.
Q What has been your biggest challenge in getting this book published?
A I guess lack of knowledge about what I was even doing. I have young twins and we moved twice, so it took me five years to write the book. It was finished in three years, but then I spent a year getting burned financially from two different editors with stellar resumes. The last year I had to learn to edit and format myself, as I navigated the self publishing route on my own, without a mentor. It is kind of fitting though, as the book is about finding your own confidence alone in the world. Now I’m doing the same in the world of publishing!
Q What advice would you give new writers, either on writing or publishing?
A I read early on that you can’t edit an empty page, and that has really stuck with me. I took huge three, four, and five month breaks without picking it up, out of nervousness that not one person could like what I’d written. I worried that every person on the planet has a story to tell, so why me? But then I just thought it might be fun for my kids to see my adventures one day (not until they’re 30!) and it motivated me to keep going. I saw the movie and read the book Eat, Pray, Love, and while it was cute and heartwarming, I thought there might be a few more girls like me—a bit more wild and free. So I wrote the book that I had wanted to read, but couldn’t find anywhere.
Q How and why did you come up with your pen name, Pamdiana Jones?
A When I was writing my letters home, at times I felt like Indiana Jones, and I cracked a joke that I’m now Pamdiana Jones, and my family loved the reference. My mom fell at a museum in the 1970’s and who caught her? Harrison Ford! Now my own son’s middle name is also Harrison.
Q What’s next for you, Pam?
A Because of the very warm reception as a newly published author, I’m already three countries into the second travel memoir, where I go through the South Pacific and bits of Europe with friends. In the future I can write travel memoir three, traveling with my husband and twins. They’ve already been overseas a few times, but I’d not thought about it until we flew to Grandma’s home on a 90 minute flight. They couldn’t believe that was even a real flight, as they were used to 22 hours and 15 hours and more!
During lockdown I’ve written two children’s books, where my twins get sucked into a portal to meet Santa on Christmas Eve in book one. In book two they dissolve into their own shadows and meet historical people on July 4th. I’m still looking for an illustrator, but I’m hoping to get them out soon!
You can find and connect with Pamela here: