Friday has come round again, so it is time for another celebratory drink and chat with an interesting author. Tonight I am delighted to be sharing Friday Night Drinks with… Todd Wassel.
Todd, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
Coffee. It might be evening for you but it is Saturday morning for me!
If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
To a cool little container bar on the banks of the Mekong in Vientiane, Laos. It is called LaoDi and it is run by a Japanese and Lao that have their own Rhum factory that they use to mix with Japanese liqueurs.
If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
The Buddha and Janis Joplin.
So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
Beside my 9-5 job trying to save the world and help people, I’m in the middle of writing a 3 book memoir series. I’m on book two now and I want it to lead to more happiness, doing what I love, and telling others about it.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?
The first time someone commented on a blog piece I wrote, and I realized that I had something to say. My biggest challenge was believing that I had something to say and finishing my first book. 9 years of thinking about before I was finally able to get it out into the world.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!
I’d love to earn a decent income from having adventures, writing about them, and having enough people read them that it just keeps going.
What are have planned that you are really excited about?
In a few years I plan to buy an old Japanese farmhouse and spend a few years moving it, and renovating it.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
After 45 countries and 21 years living abroad that is a really difficult question! I’d say hiking into Machu Picchu was on my bucket list and deserves to be near the top. Bhutan is at the top of my current list. That and hiking the 100 highest peaks in Japan.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
I was born in San Diego California, while my Dad was going to Top Gun as a navy pilot. Yes, the place is real. From there we moved every three years of my life as I followed along. My day job was for a long time working in conflict and war zones with Non-profits. Despite all of that, I considered myself to be timid and not adventurous 😊
Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
I’m actually a Fantasy nerd at heart. I’d say the Brandon Sanderson Stormlight series. A great new take on the genre.
Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilisation alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soil-less ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armour that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.
The result of more than ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of The Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.
Speak again the ancient oaths:
Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.
And return to men the Shards they once bore.
The Knights Radiant must stand again.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Sleep as long as possible, and have a beer to even things out around 11 am.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Spending the day rock climbing or hiking and then the evening on a porch with a BBQ, a beer and a view
Thank you for joining me this evening (or morning in your case), Todd, it has been a fascinating chat.
Todd Wassel is the author of Walking in Circles: Finding Happiness in Lost Japan and you can buy a copy here. The book is available for free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Far from the lights of Tokyo. A 1,200 year old pilgrimage. A life changed forever.
Guided by a wandering ascetic hiding from the Freemasons; naked Yakuza; a scam artist pilgrim; and a vengeful monk, Walking in Circles is a fun, inspirational travel memoir set in a Japan few outsiders ever get to see.
Award-winning writer Todd Wassel draws on over twenty years in Japan to retell his epic journey through the contradictions of a contemporary yet traditional Japan while trying to overcome the barriers to happiness modern life throws up.
Over half a decade after first landing in Japan Todd is lost, unable to go home, or move forward. Convinced there is more to life, he risks everything to return to the one place he found answers years before: the ancient Shikoku Henro pilgrimage. Walking the 750-mile henro path, sleeping outside each night, Todd is armed with only a Japanese map and the people he meets along the way.
Todd Wassel is an international development professional, author and traveler. He has worked across Asia and Europe for the past 20 years as an English teacher in Japan, a human rights advocate in Sri Lanka, a conflict management specialist in Timor-Leste and Kosovo, and has worked in and traveled to over 40 countries. He has worked for the United Nations, small local NGOs, for the US government, and is currently the Country Representative for the Asia Foundation in Laos. Todd won the People’s Choice Award in the Southeast Asia Travel Writing Competition and has been featured in Lonely Planet, the Diplomat and ABC Australia.
Todd has hiked into Machu Pichu, watched the sun rise from the top of Mount Fuji, dived the reefs of the Maldives, honeymooned in Bosnia and Herzegovina, danced for three days at weddings in India, hiked from Montenegro to Albania, through Kosovo and into Macedonia, and walked the 900-mile pilgrimage to the 88 temples of Shikoku Japan, twice (the topic of his new book). He likes adventures and strong coffee.
Fluent in Japanese, Todd has a B.A from Colgate University in Asian Studies and Comparative Religion as well as a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher school at Tufts University. Todd met his wife Kaoru during a security crisis on the tiny half island of Timor-Leste and they have been traveling the world together ever since.
They currently live with their two children, Kaito and Sana, in Laos along the banks of the Mekong.