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January 26, 2024
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Australian Women Can Walk'

 BookLife Reviews calls Aldous’s debut “a richly inviting diary-style memoir of a young woman’s trek through India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.” Her book, Australian Women Can Walk, covers the gap year she took in 1979 to travel in central Asia. We spoke to Aldous about the story behind the trip and the process of turning her diaries into a book.

Your trip ended up covering India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. How did you come to choose those countries?

I began my overseas gap year in India because I practiced yoga and meditation and wanted to check out where it had all come from. There were few books about yoga and no travel books, computers, or mobile phones then, so I knew very little about these countries. I also had a personal drive to travel rather than settle down too early in my life. I had planned to travel across Asia, and perhaps to Europe, but had no firm itinerary. After six weeks, the two friends I started out with stopped traveling, but I carried on, exploring India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal on my own. As I was now used to this area of the world, I stayed there rather than travel on my own overland to Europe. I always had the option to go home, but I continued. I had put aside this year for traveling, and I wanted to experience as much as I could there.

What made you decide to publish your memoir?

 In 2017, I found my diary notebooks from 1979 stored in an old suitcase. The more I read through them, the more I wanted to reconnect with what I had done so long ago. I had some memories from my trip, but these notebooks contained daily notations with extremely detailed information.

What was the process like adapting your diary into Australian Women Can Walk?

Starting in 2017, I slowly began reading and transcribing the diaries. This process had me reliving their contents and enlivened my memories with often visceral recollections and vivid dreams. The first draft was an exact copy. It was often written as stream of consciousness paragraphs, poems, quotes, personal shorthand, and partial sentences and was not very readable. The second draft revised the text into complete sentences, and later drafts edited the memoir to reduce repetition and improve its flow. Professional editing was extremely beneficial, but I tried to preserve the voice of that 22-year-old writer.

How long had it been since you last read your diary?

I hadn’t read my diaries since 1979. They had moved around with me in an old suitcase for 37 years. I forgot that I had even written them.

Why or how do you think Australian Women Can Walk is particularly relevant now?

My travels introduced me to many wondrous sights and interesting people. I really enjoyed the diversity of experience: from relaxing on a houseboat in Kashmir to taking an intense trek up a Himalayan glacier, from experiencing the diverse cultures of various states in India to touring Sri Lankan cities and beaches, and from pilgrimaging to the yoga capital of the world to checking out the scene on Freak Street in Kathmandu, Nepal. Often no one spoke English and I had to adjust to each new place. Although my diary, adapted into Australian Women Can Walk, was set during the final days of the hippie trail, it is more relevant than ever as a reminder to not be afraid to live life to the fullest. It is a story of resilience, self-discovery, and self-affirmation, with side dishes of naivete, anxiety, risk, grit, romance, and humor.