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a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

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Episode 104 | On writing and travel, with New York Times best-selling author AK Turner (replay)

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

As part of my summer podcast replay series, I’m excited to share this week’s episode with my good friend Amanda Turner (writing as AK Turner). In this episode, she shares how her family travels two to four months a year—all while running a business and writing New York Times best-selling books.

Amanda’s Vagabonding with Kids series was inspirational for me as we were dreaming of moving to Thailand way back when I was pregnant with my oldest child. As kindred travel and writing souls, we had a lot of fun in this episode talking about our travel experiences and what we’ve learned about the book-writing process. Amanda shares so many great pieces of advice! If you’ve ever wanted to travel the world or write a book—or both—you won’t want to miss this episode.

Learn more about Amanda:

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Learn more about my Idea-to-Draft Accelerator and Author Mentorship program here.

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Transcripts for Episode 104

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Stacy: Welcome, Amanda. I’m so glad to be here with you today.

Amanda: I’m so glad to be here with you. It’s great to speak with you all the way over there in Portugal.

Stacy: I know the magic of technology. So I’m trying to remember when we met. It seems like it’s been a while now. It’s been at least like seven, eight years.

Amanda: I was going to say seven years ago. You were organizing a contest, and I was one of the judges, and that was one of the first times that we met.

Stacy: Oh, yeah. Oh, I remember. So I remember when I very first met you and at the I might have been pregnant at the time. When we met. I’m thinking with my first child and my husband and I were having all these conversations about moving to Thailand. This was like this big dream that we had. And I remember when I met you had this really cool, kind of different approach to life, and you would go on these trips with your kids all over the world. And I was really inspired by that. And it’s just very different than most people, especially where we’re from, in love. Love Boise, and I love the United States, but I think it’s not that normal to go on multi week and sometimes multi month trips and really explore different countries with your children. So I’m curious to just hear a little bit about kind of what led you to that place.

How did you create this really unconventional life? Is this a mindset you always had was there a turning point? I’d just love to hear a little bit about that. Backstory.

Amanda: Well, I think both my husband and I bristle when somebody says, you can’t do that. And so we traveled a lot together before we had kids. We worked in movies and television for a few years, so we lived all around the world at film sets. We traveled a lot, and we also each traveled separately before we got together. I went to Russia when I was 15. He went to a maritime academy where summers were spent traveling a ship around the world. So we traveled a lot together as a couple. And then when were ready to start a family, there were a few people who said, well, all this travel stuff you do that’ll have to come to an end. And I remember my husband specifically that just did not sit well with him at all. And so we kind of decided, okay, well, how can we continue this?

Amanda: And we did so right away. Both of my daughters, their first passport pictures, they’re, like, two weeks old. It’s just they can’t open their eyes. So from the start, we’ve just tried to travel two to four months of every year. COVID has reduced the time this year, but we’re still going to get out there. But it wasn’t just about us wanting to travel, but also, what can travel do for children? What is it like for a child to grow up exposed to different cultures, different languages? And some people will say, oh, kids need routine. Actually, that’s not true. Kids are super adaptable, or they need routine in a different sense than how we as adults think of routine. So we just decided from the start were going to find a way to make that happen. And in terms of mindset, a lot of it comes down to how you define wealth.

We would have a lot more money in the bank account and nicer cars and more toys if we didn’t take these trips. But to us, these experiences are more important than those things. So that’s part of the mindset that goes into it.

Stacy: I love that so much. I mean, this is reminding me of a lot of the things that inspired me about your Vagabonding with Kids series. I remember reading I think it was maybe the I can’t remember if it was Alaska. It must have been the Alaska book where you take your I can’t remember which of your girls it was when she was just a very small baby on this trip. And I just remember as a very new parent, because I read it when my daughter was really young, my first child. And I really appreciated the way that you were willing to take all of the input and then make your own decision about what was right for your family. And I think that approach had an impact, your approach of wanting to expose your children to the world that really resonated with me and influenced me as a parent.

And I agree with you. I think that is such a valuable learning experience that your girls and my daughter and son get that they can never learn in a classroom. And it’s just been a really powerful experience to just kind of make your own way as a parent.

Amanda: Well, and you really took it and ran with it, too. So kudos to you. But yeah, that story, when you read that story, I’m hiking with my daughter, there’s bear scat everywhere. It doesn’t mean I’m not terrified. I mean, I’m still terrified. But the point is you have to get to a place where you’re weighing your fears with the benefit of the experience, and you have to be able to objectively look at that and say, yeah, I’m kind of scared. Yeah, this is a little uncomfortable. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how everything’s going to go. And by the way, nothing’s going to go according to plan. But the benefit of this experience is worth it, and we’re going to do it anyway.

Stacy: Yeah, absolutely. That really resonates with me. And that’s been a similar experience for us. I mean, when we moved to Thailand last year, or I guess it was yeah, were there from 2018 to 2019. We went into it not really fully kind of understanding what it was going to be like as a family living in Thailand. We had lived in a couple of countries before that without children, and I had a lot of moments early on living there where I had that same experience, where it was like, wow, I really kind of don’t know everything that’s happening right now. Or I’m not 100% confident, but I feel like my kids are getting this amazing experience to really connect with other cultures, especially coming from Boise again, where it’s a very homogeneous, beautiful, but homogeneous community. I knew my kids were never going to get to experience being around a lot of different people that look different than them, around different cultures, being kind of an outsider in other cultures.

I think that’s a really profound experience.

Amanda: I agree.

Stacy: So I’d love to hear maybe one of your favorite travel memories that you have as a family.

Amanda: So favorite is so hard because there are amazing moments during each trip, but sometimes some of the favorite are not the favorite at the time. Sometimes at the time it’s so hard and you’re like, what the heck are we doing here? This is so uncomfortable. But later you look back and you see the value in that. When I think of being uncomfortable, one of the biggest things that comes to mind is staying in the Amazon at a jungle lodge. It’s a thousand degrees, the electricity goes out. There’s no running water. You brought your kids here, but we got to go piranha fishing with them. There was a moment where went on this hike and we had a guide with us. You want to have a guide with you? And my youngest was she was maybe, oh, I don’t know, five or six at the time.

And we’re walking down this steep hill, and one of the guides, she’s tiny, and this guide is huge, and she reaches up for his hand to study herself as they’re walking down this hill. And she speaks next to no Portuguese and he speaks no English, but they had this connection that was just adorable. He just was like he had daughters of his own we got to meet. And he was just like, I’m going to take care of her. And then we get to the bottom of the hill and she looks up and she says, obrigada. We always make sure our kids know how to say thank you in any language, right? That’s the most important word. That’s your starting point. And that was just I don’t know, it was just kind of adorable. It was a wonderful moment, but we’ve had a lot of moments like that.

We had Christmas in a very rural part of Tasmania one year. There was no tree. We had one little ornament that someone had given us just as token of friendship, and we hung it up in the living room on the chandelier, circa 1968. It was this old, rundown, weird house in rural Tasmania. I mean, it was a weird Christmas. On Christmas Day, went to Port Arthur, one of the first prison settlements in Tasmania. So it was OD. It was different, but it was unique. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have years when we have Christmas at home in Boise with the tree and all the normal stuff. But I think it’s great too, that you can show little kids that you can do that and still be adaptable. You can be so out of your element, but wait it’s Christmas, but still do things in a unique way and have a great time.

I think later that day we had a Star Wars marathon because that was like the only media we had access to and it worked out fine. And it’s memorable, and that’s important. You’re creating memories that are not the same year after year, and they involve different elements, different places, different languages and different cultures. And I think that’s important. So those are just a few that come to mind.

Stacy: Oh, I love that. And I agree. I feel like if you’re going to do this travel thing, you have to be flexible, especially around the way that you celebrate different holidays. For us, we have a couple of specific Christmas items, decorations that we’ve brought with us, no matter where we are. It’s a couple of stockings, a Christmas star, maybe one or two other things. And those things just help kind of anchor the kids a bit, just to feel like they have something familiar but otherwise I feel like they’ve been very adaptable, just like your children. And that’s very intentional. I know you guys have done that since they were very small. Now I want to ask the question that I know a lot of listeners are wondering at this point as they listen to you talk about all this travel and this very nontraditional lifestyle that you lead, how do you do this practically and professionally?

So tell me a little bit. I know, but I’d like you to tell the listeners how you and your husband have created and designed your professional lives to support this life that you lead.

Amanda: So for most of the time that we have done this, we’ve done this while my husband maintains a real estate office here in Boise. So people are like, that’s crazy. How can you do that? You can’t do that, but you can. You have to actively and consciously consider how you design your business and your work. So when he operated with a real estate office, he had to make sure that he had a team in place so that when, oh, we’re going to go get on a plane. There’s somebody else there who can show houses and do all of that stuff, the stuff that you have to be present for. But another thing that he would do, that I now do with clients that I work with is when you are about to go on a trip, you suddenly become hyper productive and way more proactive in reaching out to your clients so that their fears are alleviated.

And even then, in the first maybe two weeks of a trip, you’re calling them without them saying, I need to talk to you. You’re being very proactive in your relationship with them because they need that reassurance. They don’t often understand that when you’re traveling, you might be more productive for them than if you were at home, because you don’t have the same distractions that you have in your normal day to day life. Sure, there are other distractions, but it’s different. And so being very proactive in terms of dealing with clients, if you’re dealing with clients, is important. I think, for a lot of people. They do deal with clients in some regard, travelers. If you work on your laptop, you’re probably communicating in some way with someone, delivering some sort of content or responding to someone. So both Mike and I work in that capacity.

So that’s really important in terms of your job and keeping your job going. But it also goes back to that mindset of which would I rather have like, would I rather have my full commission on this job, or would I rather have 50% of my commission on this job but get to live in Spain for two months? For us, it’s a no brainer. For some people, not so much they want that full commission. But if you can have a team around you, if you can have solid people upon whom you can rely, then you can keep your work pace going smooth. That plus being very proactive on your own, then you can keep the job thing going pretty well. The other thing with my husband and I is we work together often. Like right now our desks are like 4ft apart and that’s at home in Boise.

So we’re very good at working together and working in close spaces. So when we have to go and do that overseas, it’s not a huge know. I don’t feel like, oh, I’ve lost my personal space. We don’t have any personal space anyway, so it’s okay. The other thing, in terms of how we make it work logistically, we’re not trust fund kids or anything like that. We don’t have a ton of money to do this with. But we have found ways to do it where it is actually cheaper for us to go live in Brazil for two months than it would be for us to stay here at our home. When you factor in cost of living, when you use things like home exchanges, which we do a lot, airline miles, we do a lot. When you do those things, it can end up being actually cost you less or the same or only a little more.

It doesn’t have to be a super expensive vacation because when we travel, we’re not pretending like we’re on vacation. It’s not fancy dinners every night or expensive theme parks or anything like that. It’s more about living and working in another culture and experiencing that culture as much as we can.

Stacy: I feel like that’s one of the great secrets that many of us who live this kind of lifestyle know and that’s that actually, if you do some homework and a little bit of research, you can live cheaper in these other places and travel for really not that much. What most people are used to is having one or two weeks a year where they spend five grand on a vacation to know or to Florida or something. And so we have this kind of anchor in our minds of what a trip should cost and that’s for most of us that travel a lot, that’s just not how we do things because it would be impossible to spend that much money on every single trip that you take. Right. And that was one of the things that I got out of your books too, when I read them, that you’re really smart about kind of travel, hacking your way to be able to have these amazing experiences in these incredible places without it being tens of thousands of dollars to do it.

Amanda: We just couldn’t do it that way if that was the case. Absolutely. We would be relegated to the one week a year, maybe two weeks a year. And we sort of also adapt our spending level to the cost of living in a certain country. So for instance, we had no qualms about eating every meal out in Brazil, lunch for the four of us, it’s 4.50 or something crazy like that. Right now, in Australia, that was not so much the case. In Australia, we did some peanut butter and jelly and we had to really dial it in because the cost of living was so much more. So we always sort of factor that in when we’re planning and then attempt to adapt to that when we’re there. Now, that’s not to say we don’t splurge on occasion or celebrate, especially when we first get somewhere we’re going out to eat.

But then we’ll often stay in a place with a kitchen. Like I said, we’ll do a lot of home exchanges and so we find the grocery stores and we learn how to cook meals. And sometimes you do that. And there’s value in that too. Sometimes it’s nice to sit down at a table in a home with your kids and restore a sense of normalcy, especially if anybody’s feeling anxiety over your circumstances. So you sort of have to gauge it, gauge your finances, your cost of living, the place you are and how every member of your family is doing. And adapt to make sure you keep going smoothly.

Stacy: Wise. Wise words. And 100% on all of that. Now, a lot of the listeners of this podcast are writers or aspiring authors. And you have written seven books and co authored two other books also. So nine books. How do you do this and maintain this kind of schedule? I’d love to hear a bit about your productivity. How do you get so much writing done? And it’s good writing. You’re productive, you’re getting books out. Tell me a bit about your creative process and how you make this happen alongside your business and your traveling and all of that.

Amanda: Well, I will say there’s never any one set way to do anything. So my writing process has changed with each book as they go along. But I learn as I go. I also have to adapt in terms of the fact that most of my books, the drafts were completed in a very short amount of time, as little as two weeks for one draft. Wow. But for that to occur, I have like 5 hours a day totally to myself to just focus on that. And that’s really hard. So a lot of the time, for me to have a draft completed, my kids need to be in school. So I don’t often write a draft while we’re traveling. I may do some editing of a draft while we’re traveling. But in terms of getting that draft, if I’m writing to a really high word count, like 5000 words per day, my kids need to be in school.

And I’m not focused on a million other projects. But again, it changes with each book. I’ve had books where I did the draft in 2000 words per day. I’ve had books where there’s no schedule, and it’s just whatever. And those never go as well. I am a big fan of scheduling things out. That helps with my own peace of mind, too. I mean, that keeps me centered and going. So there are so many things at play. If you have kids at home, especially if you have young kids at home, that’s tricky. If you have a spouse, then having a supportive spouse is completely different than having someone who maybe belittles your little writing hobby or something like that. So I’m very lucky in that I have an extremely supportive spouse even before I was ever published, before I ever knew if this would go anywhere, before he ever knew if this would go anywhere, when he very easily could have written it off as my little writing hobby.

But he didn’t, and he would make time for me. He would take the kids, and I would go to Barnes Noble and sit and write until they kicked me. So that the people around you, that’s really important too. And I always tell people, I’m like, if there’s somebody in your life who is not supportive of your writing, stop talking to them about it. Just stop discussing it with them. They might not come around, or they might, but who knows when? So you don’t need that influence. Writers have enough self doubt that we struggle with honestly, isn’t that the truth? Other people adding to it?

Stacy: Yeah.

Amanda: So those are a few things that I think have been really important to me. The other is like, the mindset. And I’ve said, Go back and coach myself ten years ago. I would tell myself to stop worrying about failure and instead replace that with excitement about the possibilities, like excitement about the possibility of success. Instead of thinking about who’s going to read it, who am I to write a book? Nobody’s going to read it. If they do read it, they’ll hate it. Instead of going through that endless loop of negativity, start to think about what would it feel like if I held my book in my hand? What would that feel like? And to so many people, that’s like, wow, that would be amazing. That’s my dream. So focus on that. Try to harness that energy, and that will help you move forward. But I had to learn that the hard way.

I went through years of struggling with all of that. Now I’m at a better place with it. But a lot of it I just learned by doing. Does that answer your question?

Stacy: Yeah. And that fear piece, I think we both coach people in writing their books, right? And I’m sure that you’ve seen this in every single person that you’ve coached, no matter their success level, no matter how brilliant they clearly are, no matter how developed their expertise is, every person who writes a book at some point feels some seed of self doubt, self criticism. And that kind of visualization that you mentioned, of imagining that book in your hands. I use that too with the people that I coach, because for myself, that is such a powerful anchor just to imagine it done. Imagine somebody reading that book and their experience that person will have because of something that you created. That’s a really powerful thing to connect to when you’re kind of in the throes of self doubt.

Amanda: I think another thing that ties into that is picturing one reader. Picture that one person you’re going to connect with because a lot of people get caught up in like, how many thousands of copies will I sell or not? Well, what about what’s so and so going to think? What’s so and so going to think? Or what’s Aunt Judy going to think? You got to push all of that out and focus on the one person who you are writing for and keep them in your mind because otherwise you will let all of these other people into your head and they’ll get in the way of progress. And so you just have to focus on connecting with one reader. That’s what’s important.

Stacy: That’s such great advice. It reminds me too. Have you read On Writing by Stephen King?

Amanda: Many times.

Stacy: Many times. Me too. It’s one of my favorite books on writing. And he talks about how he writes to his wife. She’s his one reader. And it helps him stay really anchored to the thing that he’s writing. And 100%, that’s such a powerful what’s interesting is that marketers use this too when they’re creating ads and when they’re creating content. It’s kind of the same idea. You need to deeply understand that one person that you’re writing the book to, and it can really help when you’re feeling stuck or afraid or yeah, you’re having all this chatter of like, oh, what’s so and so going to think about it.

Amanda: Yeah.

Stacy: So I actually recently attended your Master class that you did that’s actually all about the entire book writing and publishing process. And I know you have another one coming up soon. I’d love for you to tell me a little bit about some of the things that you’re looking forward to both online in 2020 and in person in 2021 because I know you have some really neat stuff coming up, right?

Amanda: Yeah, I have the Master class on writing and publishing. Just a really cute two week crash course on everything you should maybe know before you get started in this endeavor. But another thing that we have scheduled is in 2021, in June of 2021, I’m hosting two luxury retreats in Mexico. So one is specifically geared towards writers, and the other is for entrepreneurial couples or any forward thinking couples who are positive and like to think out of the box. You don’t necessarily have to be a business owner or anything like that, but we have been planning these retreats for quite some time. We have it dialed in. It’s going to be amazing. We had them scheduled for 2020 and COVID put that on hold. So we’re just now in the process of securing our dates for 2021 and they’re going to be pretty amazing. Definitely unique experiences.

They take place in a little town called Toto Santos, and it’s not a spring break type place. We’ve been going there for 20 years now, so we really know the town and the community. So we’re in a unique position to give people really fantastic behind the scenes, almost experiences rather than what you’d get if you were just a tourist traveling through. So we’re really excited about that.

Stacy: Yeah, it sounds absolutely amazing. And where can people learn more about all of the things that you have coming up?

Amanda: So one of the best ways is the Facebook group, which is called Write a Great Book A Community. And honestly, if you have any interest in writing, this is a great place to go because you can just post your goal and we’ll keep you accountable. You can ask questions about writing. So again, that’s called write a great book. A community. And in that we’ll be posting information on the upcoming retreats and the master class and other things we have going on. So that’s a good place to connect. And it’s not just you can connect with me there, but also with lots of other writers who bring varied experience to the table and they’re all willing to share and help you through the process.

Stacy: Wonderful. And I know you also mentioned before we started recording that you have a free three part video series as well, right?

Amanda: I do, and we can give the link to that, but it’s completely free and it’s just some information to get you started. If you think you might want to write a book, here are some things to keep in mind and some exercises you can do to get started on the process of writing your book.

Stacy: Wonderful. And that’s at And I will be sure to link all of the things that you mentioned in the show notes of this episode. Amanda, I think you are just super amazing and thank you so much for this great conversation. I’m excited to see what’s next for you.

Amanda: Well, back at you. I think you’re amazing too, and I can’t wait to come visit you not just in Portugal, but in all the places you end up because I feel.

Stacy: Like, well, we have Thailand down and then it’s going to be Portugal, and then we’ll just have to see what other countries we get to explore together.

Amanda: Yep.

Stacy: Thank you so much for joining me today, Amanda.

Amanda: Well, thank you. I appreciate it.

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