„You can’t ever be a whole person unless you have gone outside yourself. Traveling makes us complete.” (Shawn)
When I first read Shawn’s website I thought he definitely has more than a simple story to tell. I discovered in him more than a simple traveller and also I discovered that miles away or near you, the people behind these stories create the magic called LIFE.
Shawn Basey is a writer and a blogger who travelled to over 50 countries and he is still counting. He’s written two books available on Amazon and keeps up a blog at www.saintfacetious.com writing about all those places he’s seen.
When he’s not traveling, he’s busy playing accordion in a band in Prague, writing children’s stories for a Czech app company called Lipa, or just sitting back and drinking beer or coffee.
When he was younger, he dreamt about seeing Russia. And he grew up reading all the fantasy books, so Europe was on his list. He learned Latin, then Russian, then finally went to Moscow and Petersburg.
The traveling hit him when he went to visit his friends in Honduras, seeing how they lived while volunteering in the Peace Corps. Only then he understood how travelling could be a reality for him. He learned how it was possible, and began to write. But this was only a step in his beautiful journey.
Encouraged by his wife, he published „Hunger”, a collection of stories based on physical starvation. The spiritual meaning of his book is mostly illustrated in the last two stories of the collection.
I call Shawn a true travel dreamer, between his own reality, fiction and what magic means in his world. I discovered in him a Fairytale Traveller who felt in love with life more than anything, a life that is a mixture of writing, traveling, singing and sharing his stories with the world. Shawn believes that music helps you lift the illusion of life, takes the weighty layer off of it for just a moment. For him it is a creative expression. But the most creative expression is what leaves behind.
I invite you to meet him and be a part of his Fairytale Story!
“Let’s meet the man Shawn, the writer Shawn and the traveller inside you. You grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and later spent much of your life in Denver, Colorado. After getting tired of your bureaucratic desk job, you joined the Peace Corps and moved to a small village in Georgia. After your volunteering was over, you traveled much to Europe and found yourself settling back in Georgia for a longer term. Tell me how your writing adventure began. “
Shawn: „I’ve been writing all my life. When I left home first to university, and later to Peace Corps, I had to each time go through crates of papers, trying to decide what stories and poems I would keep and what I’d throw away. But you know, when I was looking back through all those stories, especially the second time, I just thought of how young I was when I was writing them. They were, to put it simply, quite childish and inexperienced tales. Each phase through my life I’ve looked at myself through the same, cold and hard lens, and often go a bit Bulgakov on my work and toss it all in the oven, so to speak.
I looked at my entry into Peace Corps as a way to re-devote my life. To simplify things away from the American living. And for a long time in Georgia in the Peace Corps, I was mostly disconnected except through a very niche blog that had carried over from the days of Myspace. There was such a thrilling blogging community there, and I don’t think the blogging community has ever really recovered from being shattered by the end of the function on that website.
Anyway, in Georgia I also finally had time to finish up my then latest and more serious work, “How It Ends”. It was after reading Dostoevsky, Philip K Dick, and Vonnegut hundreds of times over, and getting some travels under my belt, and relating more and more to other people – I mean, not people in my own ethnic socio-economic sphere, but those outside of it – that I finally decided I was ready to tackle such an opus.
After Peace Corps though, I dithered. I had the manuscript, but I sat on it. I traveled around, taught English in half a dozen countries, continued blogging and writing, but to no direction or gain. It wasn’t until I got married and my wife read the manuscript, and that she pushed me to do something with it, that I decided to try to publish it. Except because I had been so cut off over the years, in a kind of traveling monk-like exile from the West, I had no idea how to go about it nowadays. It’s all been a bit of a slapdash process.”
“You started your blog years ago when you left in an adventure in Honduras. You cut your hands on broken glass and fractured your bum while jumping across a river. So actually this adventure made you write stories, adventures, and advice from all the over 20 countries and countries that you visited?”
Shawn: „The blog in its Blogger form, as a self-contained substance, started in Honduras. But I had actually been blogging ever since the advent of Myspace. It was a way to write and be heard, and not worry about absolutely having to publish something in order to do that, though it had little to do with travel. This adventure in Honduras though started the Blogger blog, which carried on and got me to focus more on my traveling experience. Because that was something that I had experienced that was interesting. And then, with that practice, I really started to hone my writing skills.
I mentioned Bulgakov before. That was the fate of the Blogger one not long ago. I only just year decided to start using a Wix platform, and rebrand myself even further. Not “rebrand”, but I guess, find a brand that would be more accurate.”
You have 3 books published on Amazon – “Hunger: A short story collection of famine, war, and hunger “, “How It Ends” and “A Pale Death”. I will refer to HUNGER now, that is your last book. First of all, why Hunger?
Shawn: „I’ve always been fascinated by World War II, especially the Eastern Front, where no matter how you look at it, there’s simply a complete lack of good guys. No matter who you chose to fight for, at the end of the day, you were benefiting one group of mass murderers or the other. Pair this with my experience in Georgia living in Bolnisi, an ethnically German town whose German inhabitants were purged and exiled to Kazakhstan during the war. I felt there was definitely a story there. And though I’m strongly influenced by history, this would be a historical FICTION, with all caps intended on the fiction part. That is my penultimate interest in writing.
I already knew a lot about World War II, but I didn’t know nearly enough. Plus, since I had been in university back in the early 2000s, a lot of books had been released using the information from the Soviet archives that were opened briefly in the 90s. That meant that a lot of the things I had learned might not have been fully correct, or might have been addended. So while living in Bolnisi, and after, I started reading more and more on the subject until finally I had the idea for a story line, and enough information to imagine and describe the life for the inhabitants of the different places, from the Caucasus to the Ukraine, and to know enough of the different ethnic groups to make it feel real, even if it was a Georgian, Azeri, Chechen, or Cossack reading it.
“Hunger” was born out of that. While I was researching, I kept coming across story ideas that wouldn’t fit in the story, but needed to be written.
I don’t really choose my stories, they choose me. They pop in my head and fester until I write them down. Then I usually do nothing with them, but at least I get them out. I say “I usually do nothing”, but that was in the past. Now I have my wife, as I mentioned. And somehow as we were talking we came up with the idea that I should seek to publish something at least once a year, also alongside the traditional publishing route.”
“The title of your book is in a way a collection of fear, life, war, it haunts you. How much inside this book can you put into your own reality? What made you write it?”
Shawn: „I certainly hope I can’t put too much in my own reality. Yet there is a lot there. The idea for the collection was going to be all cannibal stories, but for one, because cannibalism is hard to read about, and hard to write about on a methodical level – I can be a bit of a method actor with my characters – I broadened it to cannibalism of the mind and the spirit. It’s also one of the overlying themes of How It Ends, that is, the Freudian idea that we devour ourselves, and constantly seek to sabotage ourselves every chance to success that we get. We only achieve something by failing to stop ourselves. So I use Hunger in the sense of not just physical starvation, but also spiritual, which is really mostly illustrated in the last two stories in the collection.”
“What do you think about when I say: Fairytale Traveller? What a Fairytale Traveller means to you?”
Shawn: „I grew up in my imagination, always imagining my own fairytales. And to me, fairytale takes another connotation. One of my favorite authors is Neil Gaiman, and he’s simply the master of making the modern world into a magical land. It’s all the way you look at things, I guess. That’s what I get from the title “Fairytale Traveller”, a way of looking at the world with magic, rather than the dull, pessimistic sheen that’s so easy to be overcome by.”
“Do you consider yourself to be a fairytale traveller in your own life?”
Shawn: „In those terms above, absolutely. I’m always trying to break away from the norm. There’s a certain web of reality that seeks to pull us into the mundane. This is my biggest fear. I was trapped in it before, though with the consciousness that I was in it. But what if I get trapped by it again, and even worse, unable to see the overlying reality, unable to be aware that this is not how things are meant to be.”
“You spent most of your time writing articles and stories, teaching English, and playing in a rock band, the Underground Men. How is music mixing with writing, teaching and travelling?”
Shawn: „How does it not? I was couchsurfing for nearly a year throughout Europe. For a single man to couchsurf, it’s nearly impossible. Mostly male hosts are looking for females, female hosts are looking for females. Not many people care for men. I can’t blame them. But throw an accordion in the mix, and you’ve got an open apartment almost anywhere you go!
In all seriousness though, I grew up with music. My favorite memories were listening to the Boss and Billy Joel blaring out of the speakers as my dad drove us down to Louisiana on our summer holidays, or my grandfather listening to Louis Armstrong on the vinyl on his backporch while smoking a cigar. Music helps lift the illusion of life, takes the weighty layer off of it for just a moment. It’s creative expression. And I see little difference between creatively expressing myself with a pen or with an accordion or piano.”
Did you know, even, that there are stories that cannot be told in words? Some stories can only be told by music.
At some of my book readings, I’ve paired it with a guitar and drum playing blues and read along with it. I think – and this is based on what others have told me – that there’s also a certain melody with my writing. I think it’s perhaps because I’m musically attenuated. Maybe it’s also because I’ve read a lot of Kerouac and Vonnegut. They also write with this amazing, musical rhythm that just draws you in.”
“You are a complete man, an adventurer, a traveller, a dreamer. And the adventure goes on for you. How many countries are on your list in the next period?”
Shawn: „Well, what I wrote about me needs to be updated. I’ve hit over 50 countries. Mostly in Europe, the Caucasus, Middle East, and North Africa. So what I’d really like to do is stretch those borders. I’d like to see more of Africa, more of Asia, more of South America. But there is a bit of life that pulls on me in a certain direction, and not in a bad way, but in the way it seems I’m supposed to go. So I’ll quit fighting that sense and go with it.”
“I want you to send a message from you to all the people in this world who are inspired by travelling. Why they should go on?”
Shawn: ‹ In Georgian they have a saying. “Ramdeni ena itsi, imdeni katsi khar.” It means, “how many languages you speak is how many people you are.” I’m not precisely sure exactly what they mean. But I think in a very roundabout way, it’s something like this: You can ever be a whole person unless you have gone outside yourself. Traveling makes us complete.›
“Define me the man Shawn, the writer Shawn, the adventurous Shawn in 4 words. Inspire people and tell me through this 4 words why you are a Fairytale Traveller in your own life. “
Shawn: „You define your existence.”
Be a Fairytale Traveller! 🙂