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  • Writer's pictureJessica Cantwell

Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Awakening Down Under by Bruce Spydar

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Awakening Down Under is the first book in the Diary of a Shy Backpacker series by Bruce Spydar. Loosely based on the author’s own experiences, this novel takes you on an Australian walkabout with Bruce (a.k.a B.J) who is a shy, introverted 23 year old British-male. After attending university and before being chained to a desk in the corporate world, B.J. steps out of his comfort zone and travels to the land down under in search of love, as well as the meaning of life. Being a shy introvert myself, I could relate to B.J. on everything from how he hates large crowds to how visiting churches and places of prayer make him feel uncomfortable. I laughed over swearing being a part of his natural make-up to how annoyed some people can make him. I too suffer from both ailments! It was fun stepping inside and seeing what actually goes on inside the mail brain (yup, mostly thoughts on sex) and traveling back in time before the days of the internet to explore Australia. This is a funny, enjoyable read. I highly recommend it for anyone 18+. Before we talk to Bruce, let’s read the synopsis:

Graduating from Oxford had promised to set him up for life. BJ should now be starting a rewarding and lucrative career, and living the high-life, surrounded by wonderful friends. He should be settling down with the girl of is dreams for a life of enduring love and fantastic sex. Where had that promise gone?

Instead, BJ is back living in the parental home, is unemployed and isolated from his friends. His love-life is a barren wasteland, and his prospects look bleak. BJ is bored, restless, disillusioned, frustrated, suffocated.

After reaching a dead-end in his pursuit of environmental jobs, BJ changes direction. With his head over-fulling his heart, he secures a professional training contract with a big City firm ... a safe and respectable career now lies ahead. F-it! ... thinks BJ, as he buys an air ticket to Darwin, Australia. He feels the urge to go walkabout.

J.C. - Hey Bruce! I’m so happy you joined me for this interview. Before we start, can you take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers? B.S. - I am delighted to be asked. Bruce Spydar is my pen name, which I created when conceptualizing my second book Spydar’s Web: How to Capture Happiness. I wanted to use a pen name, essentially because writing was a fresh start for me, having turned to it after a lengthy career leading finance and operations support for international nature conservation. A few years ago, I was forced to change direction, and decided to try something totally different. The story of Robert the Bruce and the spider, with the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” motto inspired both my happiness model, and the Bruce Spydar name, which is actually an anagram of my real name, so it felt right. Spydar also breaks up into two verbs ‘spy’ – to observe, and ‘dar’ – to give/show (in Spanish) … and I perceive my niche in the writing world as one of taking my observations of the real world, and trying to give something back to others through a fun way of seeing things. I’m British, but my heart was captured in South America, first by hummingbirds, which I find the most captivating and beautiful creatures on the planet, and then by my wife, who is also from that part of the world. I enjoy food, wine and mischief. J.C. - This story was refreshingly different from what I have been reading recently. What made you finally sit down and write the book? B.S. - The Shy Backpacker emerged as I was writing Spydar’s Web. I was remembering some of the adventures that I’d experienced in my youth, and was mulling over how small changes in different occurrences or choices I made might have resulted in a totally different life. I recalled some of the people I had met on my travels and began asking myself the ‘what if?’ questions. I was already writing Spydars Web which I hoped would be a useful self-help model for happiness, and I thought that by writing semi-fictional accounts of my own life experiences, I could make a few people laugh too. As I have worked for nature most of my working life, I have always been dedicated to a cause. I also wanted my writing to also have a positive impact, and what better impact could I have than to bring some people a bit more laughter and happiness? J.C. - I loved the introduction to the book. It was like reading a bit about myself! Though the story does state it is loosely based on your life experiences. How loosely is that? Are you really as shy and introverted as BJ is in the story? B.S. - At the very core of it, BJ is 80% to 90% me … but then it gets quite fuzzy around the edges, as my imagination takes over. I am a shy person and I am an introvert, perhaps slightly more so than BJ. I have always hated being the centre of attention, and dislike being judged and potentially rejected. There are so many challenges we face as we grow up and try to shape our lives in this world, and so many times we have to force ourselves into uncomfortable situations … and for a shy guy, dating is one of the hardest challenges there is. J.C. - Being Gen-X, it was great for me to step back in time with BJ to the days before the internet. When it comes to life and travel, do you think it was more fun back then or more frustrating not having modern conveniences? B.S. - I don’t know about more fun, but perhaps you had to be braver back then. But I suppose you adapt to any conditions of the time. For me, travel does become less exciting as the world keeps getting more and more accessible. Travel is about discovery, and about seeing and experiencing new things that you cannot do from home. If BJ had been travelling today, he would have been spending all his time looking for WiFi hotspots and trying not to go over his mobile data limit. That would have been frustrating, and also would have diverted him away from seeing the real world through his own eyes. And, I suspect, if he’d ever got near to talking to girls, most likely they would have been more interested in putting selfies on Instagram for their friends back home than taking an interest in him. I generally think that the art of conversation is dying … although personally, I was never terribly accomplished. J.C. - I love that phrase ... seeing the real world through his own eyes. I am constantly telling that to my kids! J.C. - What was your (not BJ’s) favorite part of backpacking in Australia? B.S. - It was the freedom to go my own way and in my own time, without parents or friends having any idea what I was getting up to. I also experienced some really awesome places and some wonderful people … some of them who you get a little taste of in the Shy Backpacker. The central desert area was fabulous and so different to anywhere I had ever been, and the Great Barrier Reef also. Sydney Harbour is also a really special place, although not so great for a singleton on Valentines Day.

J.C. - Traveling to Australia is a dream of mine. Thank you for allowing me to see it through B.J's eyes. One day I hope to be there in person. J.C. - Who has been your biggest support system while on this writing adventure? B.S. - I’d have to say my wife. Although she may not always be terribly interested in my writing, she wants me to be happy, and doesn’t pressure me to earn money from it. Thankfully my career before writing as well as her continued work have meant I could pursue my creative side. In terms of support as a writer, it is the handful of wonderful people I have engaged with on Instagram, who are supportive and altruistic. I am a big believer in mutual support, as by helping each other, we all stand to gain. There is also no better encouragement than when another author, who you think is awesome, actually likes your work too. J.C. - Finish the sentence. In ten years I’d like to… B.S. - … still see myself and my family in good health and enjoying life. J.C. - BJ meets a few people while on his walkabout. He becomes friendly with them, then they separate as each continues on with their travels. Periodically, BJ runs into several of these familiar faces again while in other cities and towns. Did this happen in real life? B.S. - Yes, and quite a bit in Australia. The backpacking circuit in Australia was such that people were generally travelling either clockwise or anticlockwise around the country. There was an established circuit, with people stopping off at a lot of the same places, and staying in the same backpacker hostels. Apart from the red centre, nearly everything of interest for tourists lies around the coast, so there is a natural concentration of visitors. It’s very different in other countries. J.C. - The second book Eye on the Prize is out now. Will there be more in this series? B.J. - Yes. No Looking Back should be released this spring, and continues BJ’s journey across Canada, where he tries to maintain a romantic relationship from thousands of miles away. He naturally encounters further ‘temptations’ before he heads back to the UK to start work in London. As an offshoot from the series, I am also thinking about a standalone volume which ties in, but is from the perspective of one of the girls. A couple of reviewers commented to say they wondered what certain encounters would have been like from the girl’s perspective … so I am thinking of challenging myself to write it. At present I am also intending to write about BJ’s adventures as he begins work in London. So, if you like BJ’s character, there should be more to come. In addition to that I also have a few more ideas for my self-help books … so we will have to see how they all progress. J.C. - Lastly, where can readers find you and your work? B.S. - I’m on Amazon only at the moment for the books, and with regards to social media, @brucespydar on Instagram is the best place to find me. I do also have a website but I’m currently not as active there as I might be. Thank you for reading about Bruce Spydar and Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Awakening Down Under. This book is such a funny, pleasurable read (pun intended). I enjoyed it so much that I jumped right into book two: Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Eye on the Prize. Stick around, I’ll be posting a follow-up interview with Bruce for book two, Eye on the Prize, very shortly!

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