the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Plans for 2023 and Ávila

on November 16, 2022

While I was in Guatemala in 2019, I made a friend who’d volunteered with VaughanTown. I’d never heard of the organisation so she explained how she’d been recruited as a native English speaker to improve the language skills of Spanish business people. The commitment involves six days of timetabled activities to develop the participants’ spoken language skills whilst staying at a good quality hotel located close to Madrid. Travel to and from Madrid is at the volunteer’s expense but all food and accommodation is covered by the organisation. I squirrelled away this information for future reference. Recently, I’ve been thinking about writing a novel with a business woman as the protagonist and realised VaughanTown might make and ideal setting for the action to take place. Call this research, another overseas trip or a working holiday, I sensed an application taking shape.

The online form involves writing a bio including the following information:

  • Please tell us where you are from, who you are, what your interests and passions are, what your background is and about your education.
  • Tell us about places you have travelled to or lived in and what you loved about them. Tell us all about you!

It was an interesting process to write a potted history of my life story. It made me think about the high points and milestones along the way. This is how I summarised things:

After single-sex secondary education in south London, I left school at sixteen to find employment in a range of positions from shop assistant and waitress to foreign exchange cashier. Travel followed when I joined a never-to-be-forgotten double decker bus trip from London to Kathmandu. The next stop was Australia and then I spent two years in the beautiful and wild highlands of Papua New Guinea volunteering as a pre-school assistant. On return to Europe, I lived in Santiago de Compostela where I earned money giving private lessons in English. Having caught the teaching bug, I was encouraged to gain university entrance through studies by correspondence and at thirty years of age, I graduated from the University of Kingston with a first-class honours degree. Marriage, children and a career in teaching came next and I thoroughly enjoyed life based in the county of Dorset. I was made redundant in 2013 and decided to follow my interest in creative writing by studying again, this time for a PhD. My debut coming-of-age novel was published in 2019 and another fiction title came out in 2021. The joy of writing is that it can be done anywhere. I continued making up stories while I volunteered at a refugee settlement in Uganda in 2020. My role involved supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families. Repatriation due to Covid-19 coincided with my husband’s decision to retire early. Since then, we’ve lived an itinerant existence staying in cities around the UK including Cambridge and Edinburgh. My third novel, a dual timeline mystery will be published in July next year. I continue to travel extensively with trips to Cambodia, Prague and Portugal planned. In March 2023, I’ll enter the Weymouth half marathon.

Other information followed in the application process and seemed to please the recruitment team as I’ve been offered a week of volunteering in February based near Ávila. (David is also volunteering so this will be a new experience to share.) I’ve always wanted to visit the medieval walled city and following the week at Puerta de Gredos, we’ll spend a few days in the city Ávila where we’ll walk the 2km long city walls.

Watch this space as I share further plans for 2023.

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