A Grand Circle traveler heads to South Africa in search of inspiration for her next novel
For Freddie Remza, 8-time traveler from Apalachin, New York, traveling not only opens the doors to new cultures, but also provides inspiration for one of her greatest passions: writing.
Last June, Freddie shared her experiences journeying with Grand Circle’s sister company, OAT, on our Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze River Small Ship Adventure, a trip she took, in part, to find cultural insight for her children’s novel, The Journey to Mei, the story of an American family preparing to adopt a child from China.
She was so happy with the success of her first novel that she decided to continue traveling with us—and this time, her husband, neighbors, and friends joined her on our Highlights of South Africa vacation. Here, Freddie shares her experiences seeking inspiration for the newest addition to her series …
I have two passions—traveling and telling a good story. After so many of my friends, family, and neighbors read The Journey to Mei, they wanted to know what happened to the family after the book closed, so I decided to continue the family’s story … this time, in South Africa.
The sequel to my first novel would pick up five years after the first book ended. I knew the family would travel to South Africa because the father was on sabbatical from his job—so the entire family would be living in the country for an entire year. Since the first novel focused on the adoption process in another country, I wanted the second to show young adults how to deal with new friendships and changes when moving to a new place—in this case, an entirely new country with different foods, school systems, and cultures.
During Freddie’s trip, her group visited Bourkes Luck Potholes—which turned into a weekend excursion in her novel.
I did a great deal of research before my trip, so I used my time in South Africa to learn about important aspects of the culture and ways of life of the locals, just as I did in China.
My fabulous Program Director, Ian Wallace, was helpful with every aspect of my trip. I told him of my plans for my book prior to departure, and he went above and beyond to show me the intimate details of his country. He had me meet with his wife, Claire, one day so that I’d be able to visit their home to learn more about the everyday lives of South Africans. Thanks to Claire, I was able to find the neighborhood I used in my sequel. She also brought me to a local school so that I was able to meet with some students and chat with them about their education.
Freddie met a young girl during her visit to Esitjeni Primary School and Orphanage, which is sponsored by Grand Circle Foundation and helps support children orphaned as a result of AIDS. She used what she learned about the issue of AIDS in South Africa in her novel.
It’s important that as I tell the family’s story in my books, I’m also educating the reader about the histories, geographies, political issues, and cultural differences of the particular country in which it’s set. And although I use my books as a way to teach readers, I try to do so without their noticing it: All of the lessons I present in the book are part of the everyday lives of the family, so the reader is experiencing the country without even realizing—and learning at the same time.
After the success of my first book, I was really excited to write the sequel. I’m in the process of sending the manuscript to publishers and eager to hear back.
Freddie and her husband, John, hike at Featherbed Nature Reserve—which is something the family in her novel do one afternoon as well.
And I’m even thinking about where the family might travel next. Perhaps the main character will attend college in Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to go there myself …
Learn more about the geography, history, and culture of South Africa on our Highlights of South Africa vacation.