Paul GreenwayTravel Writer


Paul Greenway:
Travel Writer

Paul Greenway was born and raised in Adelaide, Australia. He led a normal sort of childhood, blessed with good parents who provided him with a sound education. Paul lived in Darwin, Canberra and Sydney while working for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) from 1987 to 1993 and spent six years travelling the world. He worked for Lonely Planet as a guidebook writer from 1994-2003, involved in more than 30 guidebooks to countries, including four research trips to Indonesia. In 1998, Paul researched and wrote the 7th edition of Lonely Planet’s “Bali & Lombok” guidebook. Paul is currently writing a trilogy of books on Bali, Vietnam and Malaysia.

What are your greatest interests?

Obviously, travel and writing. I find myself fortunate that I can combine them both and actually get paid, if only a little. I also love to play guitar and write songs. As an amateur filmmaker and editor, I also make film clips of local musical groups, including very recently for an Adelaide rock legend, John Swan. These clips can be seen on my You Tube channel by just searching for my name. Yet another interest of mine, bordering on a passion, is Australian Rules football. I was never a good player but watch any game I can on TV, except when I’m traveling.

Have you done much international travel?

At last count to over 90 countries. I still travel 5-6 months a year but very rarely to anywhere new. As I approach middle age – or am I already there? – there is comfort in returning to known, easy and close places in Southeast Asia. In my Lonely Planet days, I researched all sorts of weird and wonderful places like Mongolia, Iran, Yemen, Poland and Zambia.

When was your first time to Indonesia?

My first trip was in 1984. I was travelling back from a lengthy stay in the UK, like many Aussies still do, through the Middle East, India, etc. and Indonesia. I remember a horrible 48-hour bus ride through the Sumatra, before the highway was really completed, 3rd class trains through Java and being dumped at Bemo Corner in Kuta, when there were still cheap losmen everywhere. But my love affair with Indonesia didn’t really start until I began learning Indonesian in Sydney in 1990. Since then, I lived, worked and studied in Indonesia and Bali for several years – perhaps 18 trips in all. I spent 2 years living in Jakarta developing education programs for ACT Education Solutions.

What is the first piece of writing you ever published?

I never planned on being a writer; I just fell into it by being in the right place at the right time. In 1993, I wrote a letter to LP offering my services to help out on their guide to India, but they wanted me to go to Indonesia instead. The rest is history.

What was it like working for Lonely Planet?

Each book was a contract, and you were “only ever as good as your last book.” I was fortunate enough to write/co-write 30 books. My mantra was that I would go anywhere, never complain and get the work done well and on time. Editors love that! I did a short part-time job in Indonesia (1994) and another in India (1995), while begging for a major book to justify giving up my job (with car, superannuation, etc.). They finally called my bluff by offering me the 2nd edition of “Mongolia.”

Which LP guidebook are you the proudest of?

Probably “Mongolia,” which had to be completely rewritten because the first edition was done while things were changing so dramatically. It was also my first and toughest country guidebook. I spent 3 months there during which I got giardia, lost 17 kg, got arrested and nearly drowned – all recounted in a chapter of the first Lonely Planet Unpacked series. But Mongolia was the most wonderful country to travel around in with extraordinary people and landscapes like nowhere else on earth.

What inspired you to depart from guidebook writing and write a trilogy?

Starting around 2003, work from LP started to dry up and I saw the writing on the wall. I was too old and I accepted that. I went into teaching but still wanted to somehow get a job to subsidise, if not pay for, my love of travel. After two years in Indonesia, I came back to Adelaide to become a full time writer. I decided to write a trilogy on Bali, Vietnam and Malaysia as I thought a series of three destinations might be easier to get published. I based the books on countries I knew well, would sell well as major tourist destinations and were desirable for me to travel around and research. I spent 2-3 months in each place to write and research each novel and then spent months and months back in Adelaide drafting and redrafting – not the fun bits about writing.

Does your trilogy have to be read in succession?

No, each book is separate. You don’t have to read the others to know what’s going on. But through the magic of political farce a number of the main characters in the first “Bali & Oates” end up in Vietnam (for “Vietnamesia”) and then Malaysia (for “Afghans & Malaise”) all at the same time. All three books are political farces; sort of “Yes Minister” meets “Seinfeld.” The 2nd (“Vietnamnesia”) is ready for publication, but I will probably do this myself. Check my website for updates.

What have you been reading lately?

I recently got around to “The Beach,” which I really enjoyed. Also “Sandstealers,” a novel about war-junkie-journalists written by a BBC reporter, Ben Brown. Right now I’m reading “The Untold History of the United States” by Oliver Stone, which should be required reading for PMs, presidents, generals and a juvenile version should be forced reading for kids at school.

How can you be contacted?

Through my website: www.paulgreenway.net.

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