About……

Setting up in the Khuren Uul Mountain Pass area near the Northern Mongolia/Russian Border.

Before

I remember one Friday going to the supermarket after work. Being as it was the end of the month, the kitchen was virtually empty and the shopping list fairly substantial. The kitchen was bare with nothing a few cans plum tomatoes, half a packet of stale Jacob’s cream crackers, a single rubbery potato and a bendy carrot.

At the check out though, the embarrassing discovery was that my card didn’t work. With people looking pissed that they had already been waiting for two minutes extra, the only option was to completely ditch the maxed out trolley under the guise of “I’ll be back shortly to pay for it”.

With palpitations instantly reaching critical level, I raced outside to the ATM to check my balance only to find that there was zero cash in the account and my wages hadn’t gone in. My company swore that the money had been transferred and there must have been some mistake, leaving no other option than to painfully leave the lovely trolley full of the next week’s delights, heading home to use the landline.

After waiting for an anxious ten minutes listening to some jazz muzak on a loop, a woman in the bank answered the phone

“Yes the money went in but…” With an agonizing pause, her words hovered over the horrible truth with manner that suggested that all was not well in mudsville.

“They seem to have paid your credit card off with your money.”

Refusing to go any further with the conversation, she was I am sure more than happy to put me through to the credit card number, washing her hands of a potentially heated exchange.

Another torturous fifteen minutes on hold lay ahead while the reality of the situation started to descend.

“Yes, you were overdue on a payment so the bank paid off your balance” said some guy in Birmingham in a flat toneless voice. Even though there was no notification or any prior warning to it, after using every tactic in my arsenal he just would not budge. Half an hour later I was left sat in the middle of the sofa in stunned silence having crashed like one of those spiraling kamikaze’s that just missed the ship.

You’re skint and it’s the beginning of the month mate. Nice one!

Luckily I had a decent boss we called ‘Bradders’, who instantly lent me another whole month’s wages without hesitation. The agreement was that I would pay him back two hundred quid a month until we were squared up. With the immediate urgency being removed, life instantly turned into its usual depression; this was yet another familiar episode in those grey avenues of mediocrity that was my life. If you are a barely breaking-even kinda guy like me then you will know that the domino effect of such an event is hard to manage. There were a couple of red bills including that frigging council tax and my stylish old red Ford Escort van was continually falling to pieces. The police had recently stopped me and were amazed at how it was legally on the road. When they saw the gaping rusty hole next to the driver’s seat they demanded a new MOT should be produced within the week. This was how it was prior to 2005. An endless vacuum of barely staying afloat mediocrity that went on and on and on and on.

After

I can’t remember when it happened but once the decision had been made to jack the whole thing in, life changed instantly. Things immediately improved. I had an objective under my belt that no one could take away. It was the first time I’d felt really excited about anything in years and from that moment on the story became something worth writing home about. I still can’t believe its China I can see out of my window every morning. I get paid to teach English, I have absolutely zero stress in my life and there are no bills (no really!)  The best and most important thing though is Mum says she’s proud of me.

About My Writing

Author of Just Turn Left at the Mountain, Trials and Tribulations Meandering across Chinese Borders.    I am currently thoroughly immersed in writing my second book.

Teacher of Art & Design in the UK from 1991, TEFL since 2006 and have created a successful series of text books called Smart English Discussion Questions & Activities: China which is up and running on my other website (here)

Travel writing: My work is a melting of humour, description and storytelling. I make observations about anything that looks interesting in as much detail as possible so the reader gets a vivid picture of what it’s like to be in this crazy wonderful country.

I can’t write without humour indeed it’s also a strong element in my teaching style. Without laughter there is something missing from the recipe. I want my readers to experience both sides of life, its bitter hardships and those precious moments of joy which remind us that life is worth living.

I want you to laugh and go about your day with a smile on your face.

I want to take you by surprise bringing these elements together swiftly and unexpectedly. That you can suddenly send your attention soaring through moments of dynamic tension is one of the more satisfying elements that writing can bring.

I want to be in the moment with you. When I go somewhere amazing, do something ridiculous or experience the other side of life we go there together. When you thumb through my pages I want us to get familiar, like having a chat over the garden fence.

Travel writing is sharing the adventure; writer and reader together on the same journey.

On this site you will find information on

  • Amazing places to visit in China.
  • Grab an insight into Chinese culture as observed from the doorstep in Andy’s Blog.
  • Links to the book “Just Turn Left at the Mountain” recounting my amazing three year journey (here)
  • Take a trip across Chinese borders to Mongolia, Cambodia and Laos as well as across the water to South Korea with the photo albums.

Interviews & Features on Other Websites:
Screenshot (40)

Travel Blogger Interview – Andy Smart at Alwaysonthewaytravel.com

 

Featured Blogger of the Month on YesterdayAfter

 

 

Screenshot (46)

Just Turn Left at the Mountain: Book Trailer on Harsh Reality

 

 

Screenshot (42)

Chatting Chinese with Andy Smart – Author of ‘Just Turn Left at the Mountain’ on The BookTrail

 

 

Screenshot (45)

Andy Smart Featured on Before Sundown

 

 

 

EBC

That’s Mt Everest in the background. Never felt so continually happy as when I went to Tibet.

Hope you have an enjoyable time as you meander your way between these pages

Be lucky and safe journeys

Andy Smart

Save

Save

104 replies

  1. Hi there Any,
    Thank you for taking the time to stop by and check out my little corner of the blogosphere and the follow, your support is greatly appreciated. I can certainly share the total despair of working the 9-5 with never ending bills and and a car on its third or fourth last legs. Looking forward to seeing more from you

    Have a great Day, 🙂

    Eddie

    Like

  2. Yes it’s quite crazy in the UK – taxed x2 for a starters! Glad you commented as I wanted to drop you a line on your blog. Really into your stuff. I’ll keep an eye out for your posts.
    Cheers

    Andy Smart

    Like

  3. Thanks for following my posts.
    Went to Beijing, Guanzhou, Chengde, Zaoqing and Hong Kong in the mid-late nineties. Loved the Chinese people’s sense of humour.
    Look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Like

  4. What a turnaround and I totally get it. More people should chuck the absurdity of 9 to 5 on top of taxes, fees upon fees, and the bureaucratic hoops that we the 99% have to jump through to survive. As soon as we sell our house we are outa here!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Wanderlets >> Thanks for dropping by. I wasn’t sure on whether or not to comment on your ‘About Us’ page but hell-yeh. I just couldn’t stand it any more. That hollow feeling that actually most of my hard earned cash was being channelled upwards. I actually went back to the UK for two years in 2013 and nothing had changed. My cash disappeared in a flash and after exhaustion and back to back 12 hour shifts once again enough was enough so here I am back in Qinghe in Beijing; no stress and slowly saving for the next adventure. Your blog looks great and you and Evelyn are clearly a dynamic couple, I’d love an RV bwt ha ha. Now very happily following your blog and looking forward to more of your posts. Have a fab day >> Andy.

    Like

  6. Andy, This is a great About. I have friends from China who were here for a year in Rhode Island. They live in Xiamen. They once worked in Beijing but moved when their little girl was born. It’s really great to read about China from your perspective and the pictures are wonderful, too. Thanks, Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Wendy > Well at least I don’t have to pay any bills here ha ha. Actually Beijing is turning out to be one long pit-stop but not for too much longer. Guo Nian Hao and best wishes!

      Like

    • Hiya Elizabeth > yes loved it 🙂 Phew > yes, well I would have never imagined I’d been living in China this time in 2004. I would have laughed at the idea. I’m just glad I’m lucky enough to be on this journey. Cheers!

      Like

  7. Great post you have here, Andy. Our son spent some time in Chengdu this summer after he graduated from college. His travels around the area were enticing, I’m looking forward to visiting that vast country someday.

    Elisa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to connect Elisa > Yes, indeed China’s a great place for an extended wander. The people are super friendly as well. I’m a hopeless China addict LOL. Look forward to your posts 🙂

      Like

  8. A pleasure to meet you Andy. I have always maintained that a person’s surname says a lot about them. After reading your “before” and “after” you certainly live up to your “Smart”. Very pleased that we have crossed paths. I hope the future brings the exchange of many more stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A pleasure to meet you Andy. I have always maintained that a person’s surname says a lot about them. After reading your “before” and “after” you certainly live up to your “Smart”. Very pleased that we have crossed paths. I hope the future brings the exchange of many more stories! Thanks for visiting and following my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phew, cheers Jane. Actually I saw it as something I had no choice in, well that and just vanish in a pile of bills. I went back for a couple of years and it hadn’t changed. Much appreciated on the sharing. Please send me the link to your FB and Pintrest and I’ll happily like or follow 🙂

      Like

  10. What a transformational ABOUT! I could relate on so many levels…to each section. I admire your tenacity and courage…and, perseverance, Andy! I have shared your blog on my Facebook page and will also share it on Pinterest. You are an incredible person of strength! I will return to the ABOUT for inspiration to move forward!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Andy. What a great About page … a short story in itself. I can well imagine your horror at the supermarket check out. But I’m totally impressed by the way you took your future in your hands and turned your circumstances around. Teaching in the UK can be a thankless job at times (although I loved every minute of being with my classes). Teachers aren’t valued, they’re underpaid and put upon – but I won’t get started on that. Your life in China sounds like a dream, and I’d love to read your books. As I said, I can follow you on Twitter, but my FB has a grand total of 7 followers (simply because I can’t think what to do with it!). Yes, I know …old dog new ticks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Millie. I’ll never forget that supermarket heart attack all those years ago, that and sitting on the sofa on a Friday night wondering what the hell I was going to do for the rest of the month. I’ve written one travel book so far but am into my second and plan to hit the road across China to Xinjiang this year alone. Its going to be a serious trip!!!! RE social media > there are so many damned sites we’re supposed to be on its hard to manage them all. I have a second blogsite and second everything as I have to keep the text books I wrote up and running. Phew > how do we get any real writing done???????

      Like

  12. Hello! What a lovely and interesting about you . Thank you for following my blog. Can’t wait to read some of your awesome posts 🙂 – so many places you have travelled to and that is so cool! see you soon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by Daisy and also for following. Actually I haven’t been to that many places, it just seems that way. I believe that it’s important to stick around a new place for as long as possible and soak up the culture rather than skipping through it. Yes for sure see you soon and have an excellent weekend

      Like

  13. G’day Andy — an interesting read, and the before is kinda where I am now. Thanks for your comments on my blog, and for following as well. Cheers from Brisbane, Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Kim > Well if your in that space then please drop by and let me know how things are. My before was a seriously depressing crap place that I wouldnt wish on anyone. Nice one on dropping by and more than happy to follow mate

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I LOVE the name of your blog! Awesome and Creative! Many years ago I was training for a cycling race. My coach was behind yelling instructions. We were approaching a round-about and he shouted into the wind “LEFT”. There were two lefts and given the speed we were traveling I thought the second left…! WHAM – I was hit by something which I have NO idea what it was! After I managed to pull myself off the road I found my coach and the ground…and all he said was HARD LEFT! LOL He later gave me T-Shirt…on it READS ……. “HARD LEFT” and an arrow that goes straight above that! LOL. Great Blog…! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha ha >> I would love to see that t-shirt. The title comes from the last chapter in one of my books “Renchinhumbe is a small village on the other side if the mountains further west. To get to it you have to push on up the lake towards Russia on horseback for a few days and then go left! Keep going left for a few days through the mountains until you get there. In order to get back you must go south and then take a right. Aaaaaah it’s all just so straightforward!” 🙂 I am so glad you like my blog. Hope you have a brilliant weekend. Holiday here in China for 3 days yeeeeeeey! Lazy lazy lazy ha ha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow – sounds like an awesome adventure! However….if I kept going left I would end up in the same spot 😉 Which I did – here in Perth! Got lost one day…and I kept going left….thought I would get back to the place I once was….and I DID not. Apparently not all roads are in grid formation! LOL. Enjoy the days!

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOLOL > you sound as bad with directions as I am. Oh for the joy of a GPS > sadly they are all in Chinese here and my Chinese speaking ability is hideous. Being in a grid formation means you can use north south east and west to find your way around ha ha. I’ll remember that if I ever head to Perth. Are you a cyclist then?

        Like

  15. Well the positive about the GPS in Chinese is that you get to learn a Whole New Language …. doesn’t do squat if you need to speak it though! LOL. I used to cycle – sort of over that whole competitive thing now. You will need a GPS in Perth – unless you can read a map…which is some cases you may end up in the opposite direction you wanted to go because some of them are so OLD and the roads have changed! Don’t have to worry about Chinese here, but you will learn to read a NATO rainbow of languages! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  16. LOL….Perth is a collection of every tribe in the world. And as recognition to culture around the world someone in their wisdom decided to use some of their languages for road signs. You can quite easily travel from England to China in one block! However, I have to give them credit – they at least tried to spell some of those languages phonically. You can travel from Beach Road (normal English word) to Coolibah within minutes. Of course the latter is assumed Aboriginal but if you ask an Aboriginal what it means they will say “Don’t Know what you are talking about”. I can only think it means Cool – i – bah —– this is not a cool place! (literally) LOL

    Liked by 1 person

      • I was giving direction to someone the other day and instead of telling them which road I decided to tell them about the landmarks along the way. “Travel down the road until you see a grey house with a red garage door – turn left” I received a call about 45 minutes later – “where is the house with the red garage door?” After working how that she had traveled 30 minutes further than what she was suppose to, I was able to get her back on track. Later the week I drove past the house with the red garage door only to find that they no only re-painted the house but the garage door to! LOL NOTE to self – landmarks don’t work in Perth either! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  17. The house was no weight with a beige garage! LOL….and it looked like most of the other houses down the street! And typical to Perth, this street had no street signs that were visible by car! By some sure brilliance they power to be through it would be so funny to hide street signs just to confuse us even more. I am convinced that they all huddle around the screen which give them feed from cameras on the road, and take bets. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Holy crap – I am just re-reading my spelling. Just to let you know…that weight is white and I AM SURE my brain told me – OK for send! I should slow down with replies…but I am doing 3 things at once….which is pretty amazing! I think I should sign up for the circus! Wait – I am a circus! LOL…..should start charging people for watching me drive!

    TV Show – hey you are probably right (or left). I may have made that show way to many times. I could be the star – better seek out some royalties! It will explain why people say – “I am sure I have seen you before”. Hmmmm!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL > I assumed it was white ha ha but it did take some working out. You should try writing a book and editing it yourself. Just Turn Left has had 24 rewrites. I paid a professional editor but he left loads of mistakes so I ended up re reading it until I just couldnt take it anymore. I asked a published author for tips on getting things right and he said to use the Microsoft Word spell checker. Oh thanks a bunch mate! Everything is a learning curve including spellin like innit (British English) ha ha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Writing books and self editing – very familiar with that process. Editing is like pulling your hair out with a salad spoon…one piece at a time. LOL. As for spell check…just writing a post now …. and spell check change a word from roller-coaster to steamroller! I guess if i look hard enough I could find the similarities! However…writing a book is one thing – printing it — another thing — but selling it….well the last one is probably worse than a salad spoon! I guess the last is like watch paint dry and you are not allowed to blink! 😡 LOL

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Robert. Thanks for dropping by and checking out my blog. Thanks for the follow but please throw caution to the winds ha ha. Pretty active and will dive over to your neck of the woods asap. Have a good weekend there Robert.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hello Andy, first of all thanks for these very very nice photos of your journeys. I am so fed up of seeing the improbable insta ‘no filter???’ (as if people eat 200g of magic mushrooms per day) photos that surfing on you blog becomes almost as a real journey! I saw one picture of a wedding in Mongolia but I could not find the photos of Central Asia? Did you go any other places than Mongolia? Again thanks for sharing your adventures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Marie > Do you mean all those photos that have been put through some colour enhancing filter software? Its strange really. Like you say, I think its important to capture what somewhere or something is really like. I havent been over to Central Asia yet. Most of my wanderings are around China. I do have two Mongolian galleries though. Just go over to the categories and you’ll find them there or go to the bottom of my blog and find my Flickr link where I have hundreds of Mongolian photos. Cheers for dropping by Marie:) Much appreciated

      Like

  20. Hi Andy, Appreciate contact. What a wonderful life for a writer – to travel and scribble about it…All power to your pen. A sense of humour is vital; to make people smile a blessing. My eldest son, Jason, also writes – you’d appreciate his humour: http://www.halfbananas.blog I look forward to reading more. (Have written five books for my sins.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Joy > Yes its pretty exciting at times. I’m buying stuff for the next trip at the moment and its great seeing it slowly building. If your up for it would be awesome if you had a look at Just Turn Left and let me know what you think. I checked out Jason’s link but it didnt work. Any ideas? Of course I’d love to check his work out. Any links to your books? Are they buy-able on Amazon?

      Like

  21. Hi Andy, My last two books – a memoir ‘My Gentle War’ (including my Dad’s diary jottings when in the Air Force in France in 1940), just re-released on Kindle and Amazon, and my novel ‘The Catalyst’ (two people wounded in one of the terrorist train explosions in London in 2005 and the aftermath). Jason’s address is http://www.halfbananasblog. I’ll certainly have a look at JUST TURN LEFT and give a review. Good luck in your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Joy > I cant get that link to work. Maybe you can copy and paste some text here so I can Google it. I found you on Goodreads and added Gentle War on my to read list. Looks interesting. Have a fab weekend Joy 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s