The author and photographer, Emma Strandberg, writes for the book PR agency Palamedes PR about how her far-flung adventures have shaped her life and her books

From Wanderlust to Words: How Travel Shaped my Life and Books


The seasoned travel writer and photographer Emma Strandberg has spent more than 40 years travelling the world, often alone. She hasn’t been everywhere but it’s almost certainly next on her list.

In this introspective blog for PRscribe, Emma discusses the impact her far-flung adventures – from the deserts of Libya to the lakes of Srinagar – have had on her life and on her books, and invites readers to explore the nexus between past travels and future storytelling.

“Travelling has long been a source of inspiration for writers, and many authors draw upon their past travel experiences to shape their future writing projects.

Having travelled extensively myself, over the past few weeks I have spent time dipping into scores of old travel notebooks that I have scribbled over the years, which have made me realise just how much my own wanderlust past is influencing and enriching my current writing by providing a unique perspective of a world that has changed fast, and forever.  “Never Go Back” has been my life’s motto.  I know that many of the places that I have been fortunate enough to visit have now changed unrecognisably, and rarely for the better. On the few occasions I have not followed my own advice, I have been left disappointed or frustrated.

It is over forty years ago that I wrote my first journals in South America. Soon afterwards I was making my way alone through the Libyan and Egyptian deserts. Then came India with its expansive landscape and upwards to the lakes of Srinagar, onwards through Pakistan, and even a short trip to Afghanistan. I arrived home soon after to celebrate my 21st birthday. I continued to clock up the miles and record my experiences.  Through all of this I have broadened both my horizons and cultural understanding. Travelling to different countries and immersing oneself in diverse cultures, traditions and their ways of life does that naturally to a person.

When I first started to travel, as a naive teenager I knew little of the world. One thing I did know however was that I wanted to write books and the only items I took real care of were my passport and travel diary. Little did I know just how much my experiences would impact my writing some four decades later through these personal insights, accounts, and a rich tapestry of cultural references. By engaging with locals, listening to their stories, and trying to understand their points of view, I broadened my own human experience. Years later, by incorporating elements from my past travels, I feel able to create more authentic and immersive settings, characters, and storylines. I believe all writers can use this tool to enhance their own future writing projects.

My passport was, retrospectively, my key to personal growth and self-reflection. Travelling often involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone, facing new challenges, and encountering unfamiliar situations. These experiences shaped me as a person but also sculpted in my mind the type of books I wished to write.  As I look back, I explore themes of self-discovery, resilience, and a personal transformation which I now harness to add depth and authenticity to my storytelling. Every travel experience is unique, filled with memorable encounters, breath-taking landscapes, and captivating stories. Travel is not just about a physical movement. When I think of my own journeys they symbolise personal growth, self-discovery, my own quest for self-realisation and it is this intertwined physical and emotional journey that has made me who I am today. It is my pillar or my voice from within and which is dominant in my own storytelling. All authors can draw upon experiences to create compelling narratives and captivating plotlines, be it fact or fiction. Whether it’s a chance encounter with a fascinating individual, an awe-inspiring natural wonder, or a thought-provoking cultural tradition, travel experiences can serve as a spring of inspiration, weeks, months and even decades later.

Emma Strandberg is a seasoned traveller and photographer. She has spent much of the past 40 years exploring the globe, often alone, seeking new adventures and inspiration.

Travel evokes a wide range of emotions like fear and trepidation, excitement, awe, and wonder, and even nostalgia. Landscapes I remember easily. The rugged mountains, serene beaches, bustling cities, baking dusty deserts, or tranquil countryside. It is as though I photographed them to memory. I took actual photographs throughout the early years though these were limited due to cost. Anyone in my age group will remember taking care of the Kodak films, and the first stop once you arrived home was to the chemist, who developed them for you.  Finally, receiving the envelope some days later, being sorrily disappointed that half of the pictures were a blur.

Throughout my own notebooks I am struck by the emotional references and descriptions which I subconsciously catalogued.  Was I afraid or cold, warm, or thirsty, nursing an injury or simply in awe of what I was seeing, smelling, or tasting for the first time.  This information is invaluable now. It adds the meat to the bones of my memories. Travel journals create a library of vivid and evocative descriptions, which if used correctly can transport readers to far-off places and immerse them in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of different cultures. My own notebooks are enabling me to create a sensory experience for readers, making my writing more immersive and engaging. Without them I would simply have a collection of photographs, both physical and to memory, which are easily available on the internet, and which mean little without the emotional connection.

It is my own memories that infuse depth and authenticity. The eel fisherwoman in Fiji, the bookseller in Aswan, the baby born in my taxi. The trinket swaps with Bedouins, the corrupt policeman, the ladies that shielded me from unwanted advances on a train to the two rangers and I in a dugout canoe paddling up Ulu Temburong while using a plastic bucket to bail out deadly snakes that fell in the boat from the overhanging trees. (I was there as had been promised the opportunity to see uncatalogued orchids!).  I have explored historical landmarks, ancient ruins, majestic palaces, and countless sacred sites. Natural wonders and phenomenon have accompanied me and by incorporating these into my writing I hope to educate and entertain readers.

My first book “Fully Booked” introduced me as a writer, while narrating how I came to renovate an old property on the west coast of Sweden and open a B&B. My last book, published 2023, Where the f**k is Blönduòs offers an invaluable insight into a relatively unknown Iceland, taking readers way off the beaten track while they accompany me on a six-month journey alone in wintertime. In my next book I take the reader on a personal roller-coaster journey of self-healing through natural outdoor therapy and a combination of friluftsliv and mys (Friluftsmys) the Scandinavian way.  My books are described as travel memoires with a healthy dollop of humour.

Connecting with readers is my largest challenge. As a self-published, little-known author, I respect the importance of this task. Writing one book after the other may well allow me to congratulate myself in having reached a lifetimes goal, but for me this is worthless without connecting and sharing my experiences in an interesting and engaging way.  Sharing travel experiences, emotional challenges and even my own past trauma through writing can create a powerful connection with readers. My life of travel has gifted me an opportunity and an abundance of material to fuel a library yet to be written. My future writing projects include much more of this, where I hope to evoke a sense of wanderlust, inspire curiosity about different cultures, and ignite a shared passion for exploration and self-development. Readers who have had similar travel experiences can hopefully relate to my stories, fostering a sense of connection and creating a loyal readership.

I can say that I finally understand the important connection between past travels and their profound impact on future writing projects, through their ability to enrich storytelling, create authentic and immersive narratives, and forge a connection with readers. I would urge everyone to embrace their own memories of their past travels and let those memories shape future writing endeavours, allowing one’s own unique experiences to shine through in their work.

Each year on my birthday I receive a moleskin notebook from my eldest sister which I cherish. For some time, it has felt like a very old-fashioned gift, though being a stickler for tradition I insist she continue to buy me this. Having a pen and paper to hand is a sure way to preserve travel memories, create a bank of information for future use, while archiving a little family history for future generations.

Happy writing and happy travels!

Emma Strandberg books sitting side by side on a table

Emma Strandberg is a widely-read author and accomplished photographer.

Her travel memoir Where the F**k is Where the F**k is Blönduós was described as a “triumph of travel writing and a masterpiece of memoir” by The Sun. Her brilliant first book, Fully Booked, recounts her experiences as a new B&B owner on the freezing west coast of Sweden.

For further information about Emma’s work, visit her website:

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