Following the Sun to Adventure
Richard Arthur’s book I of the Sun offers readers a glimpse into a once-in-a-lifetime journey from the UK to Southeast Asia.
Arthur used his diaries, firsthand experience, and his own philosophical ideas to write about the one year in which he travelled to the countries of Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
He embarked on this journey over 10 years ago when he was a 22-year-old recent graduate ofthe University of Leeds. His story is filled with plenty of exploits one would expect for his age and for his first time travelling solo. It also provides readers with descriptive details, narration and traditional travel writing.
I found that the book focused too much on his experiences drinking, partying, doing drugs and having sex.
Personally, I would have preferred to read more about the cultural experience and historical side of his travel.
However, his philosophy throughout the novel makes one think about what’s really important in life and what one’s focus should be. Arthur suggests at the end of the novel that you can’t let your life pass you by, and that the world is yours to explore.
The Weal caught up with Arthur to suss out behind-the-scenes information that didn’t make it into the book.
The Weal: Did you ever think you’d become an author?
Richard Arthur: I’ve always enjoyed writing and as a teenager used to dream of travelling the world and writing about my experiences. I kept a diary of my adventures which helped me write ‘I of the Sun’, which is mostly based on my first year travelling the region.
TW: Why did you decide to travel to Southeast Asia and not someplace else?
Arthur: I think the region initially appealed simply because it was hot and exotic and so far removed from the UK where I grew up. I knew it was fairly cheap to travel there, which would give me more time to explore the region in depth. I went on a one-way ticket, so I definitely went to spend a long time there without having a firm plan.
TW: What was the weirdest thing you encountered on your trip?
Arthur: My own state of mind after countless nights drinking Sangsom, the infamous Thai rum! And some of my fellow travellers perhaps. They can often give the weirdest quirks of foreign cultures a run for their money.
TW: Why did you decide to live in Thailand for 10 years?
Arthur: I guess I fell in love with the country as a whole— the friendly people, Buddhist culture, great food, beautiful scenery and the weather certainly helps too. As a Westerner, I also find Thailand to be an easier place to live than some of the other countries in the region.
TW: What is the hardest thing about writing?
Arthur: My book took three and a half years to complete. It required countless hours alone in front of my computer working my way through the narrative, so that alone took over a year. It can be rather tiresome rereading your own work so many times. But the reward of finishing the book was worth everything.
TW: What was the scariest thing you encountered on your trip?
Arthur: There are quite a few near-death experiences in my book between mine and my friends’ ill-advised antics. My solo caving trip in Laos definitely wasn’t a good idea, or sea kayaking in Ko Phi Phi at night, catching dengue fever … and the worst hangovers of my life, day after day for months on end.