Alyson Sheldrake: Wish You Were Here

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Wish You Were Here. I’m sharing a guest post written by Alyson Sheldrake with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to the author for writing the guest post!

Blurb:
“I must send a postcard back home.”

“Hang on a minute, I need to take a photograph of this.”
Favourite holidays and special travel memories are shared in this anthology featuring twenty award-winning and top travel memoir authors.
We all have that one holiday that stands out in our minds, that one break or vacation we will never forget. Whether it is a childhood ‘bucket and spade’ family holiday, the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ dream destination, your first trip abroad or the city where you first fell in love, the memories are still there today.
The authors in this anthology bring out their postcards and photo albums and invite you to join them as they reminisce about their travels.
Maybe they will inspire you to book your next holiday too.

Guest Post:

Alyson Sheldrake’s post explains how she was inspired by the Algarve.

From Policing and Teaching – to Artist and Author.

How the Algarve has inspired me.

I was born in inner-city Birmingham in the UK and escaped there as soon as I could to the beautiful west country. After my time as a student there, I joined the police force and served for thirteen years, which is where I met my husband, Dave. Few people can say they met the love of their life in a Custody Centre! I then moved into the world of education and reached the dizzy heights of Director of Education, working for the Church of England and managing 130 schools. The job was exhilarating and challenging – but also exhausting. I worked at least 70 hours every week.

We have always been adventurous holidaymakers, preferring to avoid the package holiday or guided tours, and exploring on our own. We had a motto back then, ‘never go back to the same place twice’, and we enjoyed many exciting holidays to beautiful destinations. And then we discovered the fishing village of Ferragudo in the Algarve, Portugal, and we were smitten. We rented a little cottage off the main street, and I can still distinctly remember the first time we arrived in our hire car and saw the village reflected in the glistening water of the Arade river. Painted boats were tied up, bobbing with the tide. The houses seemed to tumble down to the riverfront, with the majestic, whitewashed church sat proudly above them keeping watch. It was idyllic.

We loved everything about the Algarve, the food, the people, the stunning beaches, and wide-open blue skies. The pace of life was enticing, and the area captured our hearts. We returned seven times on holiday to the same cottage in the ensuing two years – so much for our motto!

It wasn’t long before we were house-hunting and purchased a modern property on the edge of the village. We still had the slight problem of working back in the UK, but we spent every spare minute we could in our home in Ferragudo. Finally, after five more years, Dave retired from the police. I handed in my notice (a scary moment!); we packed up the car and moved to live in the Algarve. Our new life in the sun could begin.

We had always joked we were ‘too young to retire’ and we both had plans. I had the burning ambition to do two things – paint and write – and Dave had held a camera in his hands since he was a young boy. Our new careers were forged, although neither of us had ever worked for ourselves before or had any idea what we were doing! We just knew what we loved, and we figured the rest out as we went along. Our first joint exhibition in the Holiday Inn hotel was a scary moment! They gave us a fabulous room to use and loads of support – but said that we couldn’t hang anything on the walls! We improvised, Dave created a set of table-top A-frame easels, and we were all set. 

I will never forget our first morning opening up, wondering if anyone would come, if they would like our work, if anyone would buy anything. Within half-an-hour, we had both sold our first pieces, and we were away. Eleven years later, I consider myself an established artist, having sold almost 250 paintings, and completed well over 100 commissions for clients around the world. Dave is now a well-respected and busy photographer, always happiest getting his feet wet on a deserted beach with his camera and tripod at hand.

I started writing a blog when we first moved here, initially just to keep friends informed of what we were doing. It soon grew into an award-winning blog with over 100,000 views a year. I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing our articles, all liberally sprinkled with Dave’s photography.

Many of our personal stories didn’t seem to fit the blog format, so I put them all to one side, and then eventually realised that I had a lot of material sat on my computer. People kept saying to me, “you should write a book”, so I sat down one day and started writing. It wasn’t long before I had written almost 80,000 words, and Living the Dream – in the Algarve, Portugal was born.

It was a steep learning curve from that moment. Self-publishing was a whole new world to explore, and I relished it all. Pressing the ‘upload’ button on Amazon and seeing my book go live was an exhilarating – and slightly scary – time. I felt the same nerves I had experienced with our first exhibition – would anyone be interested in our story? My fears were unfounded. The book reached #1 bestseller status in several categories on both sides of the Atlantic and has amazed me with the number of sales and positive feedback it has received.

At the end of the book, I mentioned we were about to move to start a new life in Aljezur on the west coast of the Algarve, and that maybe there would be a sequel. I had so many messages from people asking for a second book that I had to get on with it! The result, Living the Quieter Algarve Dream was released in November 2020. I have described both books as ‘part guide – mostly memoir’ and they are a refreshingly honest and often hilarious account of our life here.

My latest project involved bringing together the stories of a fascinating range of other travel memoir authors, all sharing their own travel adventures and stories in my new Travel Stories Series. The third book in the series, Wish You Were Here – Holiday Memories, includes twenty unique and original stories of favourite holidays and destinations. Thanks to Covid, so many people are longing to travel abroad and explore the world, but are trapped at home, passport gathering dust. At least with books like mine, you can travel safely around the world from the comfort of your own armchair. And who knows, maybe after reading them, it may inspire you to start a new life of your own in a different country?

I have no doubt that if we had not fallen in love with Ferragudo and moved here to live, none of my creative dreams would have come true. I am truly grateful to be ‘living our dream’.

***

Wish You Were Here is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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