Meet Author Sally Jane Smith

Meet Author Sally Jane Smith

Australia-based Author Sally Jane Smith shares her love for Greece and tales from her solo treks in her “Packing for Greece” series. Read on to learn more about her.

Q&A with Author Sally Jane Smith

You know I love supporting other authors! Sally writes memoirs about her solo travels to Greece. Like me, she fell in love with Greece and shares her love of this storied land in her books. Meet her!




Where are you from?

I was born within sight of Table Mountain, although I guess my mother wasn’t focusing on the view at the time 🤣 I’ve also been lucky enough to live in five countries on five different continents, and each of those has added something to my identity. Like many South Africans, though, I still call Cape Town ‘the Mother City’.


 Where do you live now?

In 2008, I came to Australia for a two-year stint working in a wildlife sanctuary called Walkabout Park, a story I tell in Chapter Two of my first book, Unpacking for Greece. As is typical for most of my life decisions, that did not go according to plan.

After a couple of months in which the only single males I met were kangaroos, a dashing firefighter arrived one day to ask about our volunteer program, and I was completely smitten. Now it’s 16 years later and I’m still here, living with Adam in a small town on the NSW Central Coast.


Do you have a “day” job?

I do, because – much as I love writing – it doesn’t put food on the table. Not enough to satisfy my appetite, anyway. And, besides, I have a travel habit to support. So, most mornings I’m up by 4 a.m. to get three hours of productive work done before I head into the office for the paying gig.

These early morning tasks might involve writing, editing, or any of the many other demands of producing and marketing high-quality books. They are especially good for chatting with podcasters, YouTubers, radio stations, and reading clubs in other time zones. On my days off, I generally get in at least seven hours of work. Unless I’m on the road, in which case I’m making the memories rather than turning them into stories.


Author Sally Jane Smith _ Image of a woman in jeans anda blue top in front of the Museum of Lost Atlantis
Sally having some fun at Museum Lost Atlantis





You’ve traveled to many places. Tell us about some of them.

It’s hard to narrow down the list, so I’ll stick to countries I’ve ventured into since that first, life-changing Greek trip in 2016.

Greece was the 31st country I visited, and my tumble into love with the place was so all-consuming that I haven’t explored many new countries since then. The pull to keep returning to Hellas has been too strong to resist.

When I was on Corfu, I took a boat trip to Albania (making it #32 on the list). There I visited a startlingly beautiful natural spring called The Blue Eye. More significantly, I went to the World Heritage Site of Butrint, a place I discovered had a connection with Ancient Greek mythology and, coincidentally, the novel I was reading at the time. That moment of serendipity stirred me to think differently about Homer’s epics and is the main reason I subtitled my second travel memoir as “A Mediterranean Odyssey”.

Then, a couple of years later, I went on an epic, seven-week journey of my own through the country known today as Turkey or Türkiye (#33). I was attracted to this land both because of its strong links with Greek culture, and because my great-great-grandmother sojourned there for four months in 1856, during the Crimean War. I climbed the steps of a palace on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus where, I believe, she and other officers’ wives were billeted, and looked up at the hills where my great-great-grandfather slept under canvas, close to one of Florence Nightingale’s hospitals. And as I travelled Asia Minor from Troy to Ephesus, and from the haunting waterfront of Smyrna to the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia in historic Constantinople, Greece was very close to my heart.


Why Greece?

I initially chose Greece as a holiday destination when I was scrolling through a list of World Heritage Sites on a supremely bad day at the office, dreaming of escape – we’ve all had those days, right?

But why have I returned to Greece again and again? Why was I driven to write about it? That’s harder to define. The short answer is: because it was Greece that gave me my kefi back. It was Greece that caused me to fall back in love with my own middle-aged life, that brought me peace with my mother’s memory, that laid to rest the demons from a bus accident that had bedevilled my life for a decade.

The short answer? I guess that’s the story I tell in my ‘Packing for Greece’ series.


Do you always travel solo?

Ha! I have to be a little careful answering this question 😂 Seriously, though, solo travel is a driving passion in my life, and I appreciate that Adam ‘gets’ that. We also have great travel adventures together, but he understands that, more often than not, I need to take on the world on my own.

After reading my first book, Adam was longing to experience Greece for himself, so we took an unconventional approach to our 2023 trip. I spent a fortnight exploring Crete before he flew out from Australia to meet me on Santorini. We spent two weeks together, visiting Amorgos, Naxos, Mykonos, Delos, and Athens, and then went our separate ways. He toured the mainland, while I boarded a ferry for Aegina and then on to my Greek ‘home’, a writers’ retreat on the Peloponnese called Limnisa.


 What do you like about solo travel?

I was going to make a joke here about not having to share my olives, but that’s not it at all. The thing is that I find it freeing to leave every obligation and expectation behind me, and head out on my own. I might be tugging a suitcase behind me, but I get to leave any emotional baggage at home. And solo travel can be a reflective time for me, allowing me to process what I encounter without filtering any of it through a companion’s point of view.

On a more mundane level, I enjoy not having to worry about anyone else’s needs. Sometimes my travel decisions go wrong. If I am with someone else, I worry that I am letting them down, and that can send me into a spiral of anxiety, even if the reality is that they are not at all bothered by the mishap. By contrast, if my plans go wrong while I’m on my own, I can throw them out the window and seize on whatever new experience is waiting for me instead.

When we’re with family or friends, we tend to be wrapped up in each other. Alone, we have nothing to distract us from the landscape, or from engaging with the people we meet along the way. There is so much more potential to interact with others when we’re on a solo journey. We get to share spontaneous moments of humour and kindness with those around us in a way that just doesn’t seem to happen when we’re travelling as a couple or in a group.


Is Greece a good place for solo travelers?

Yes. Take my last paragraph about solo travel, in general, and multiply it by 100 when it comes to Greece! Philoxenia, the Greek culture of hospitality, means that a traveller is made to feel welcome wherever they go.


 Should everyone travel to Greece?

Not everyone is blessed with the opportunity to travel, but I absolutely recommend Greece as a destination to anyone who can make the trip. It has so much to offer.

Even apart from that indefinable something that causes so many of us to become infatuated with this country, it has a great diversity of experiences to appeal to almost every kind of traveller out there.

My Greece is a collage of fascinating heritage sites that make me feel as if I can reach out and touch the past; rollicking stories that have been told and retold for millennia; land and seascapes like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else in the world; and the kind of memorable meals that have me recalling the medley of flavours years later.

Someone else might focus on the beaches, the nightlife, mountain climbing, a prayerful pilgrimage, ancestor research, or something else entirely. It’s all there. You just need to reach out and touch it.


Author Sally Jane Smith _ Cover image of Unpacking for Greece. Image of a hand holding a photograph against the backdrop of the Parthenon
Unpacking for Greece was published 2023




When did you know you had to write about your experiences?

Ironically, this answer is like a bad plot twist in a mediocre novel, or maybe a soap opera: I had a dream.

Soon after my first Greek trip, I woke up one morning from a dream that I was writing a book about my travels. I posted a joke about it on Facebook and was overwhelmed by comments from the friends who had followed my social media updates during my journey. They all encouraged me to write down my story. A few days later, I flipped open my laptop and began to type.


You have said, “Not only did Greece give me my kefi back, but it also made me a writer.” Talk about this. Why do you think Greece turns many of us into writers?

I can’t speak for other authors, but I do know that, for decades, family and friends have told me I “should write a book”. But I never felt I had a story worth the pages, you know?

That changed in Greece. Something profound happened inside me there, and my subconscious had such a burning need to tell the story that it sent me the message through that dream.

I think Greece has the power to change us, to mark us in indelible ways. Or, if not to change us, to release something that has been buried deep inside. For some of us, this comes out in a passion to write.




When did you publish your first book? Tell us about it.

Unpacking for Greece came out in June 2023, after almost seven years of work. On one level, it is an armchair travel companion featuring Greece’s awe-inspiring natural landscapes and cultural heritage. On another, there’s a personal story: of how I set out with my mum’s 1978 travel diary in my pocket, overcame the fears born of a solo travel accident in my youth, and recovered my wanderlust.


How’s it been received?

The reception for Unpacking for Greece has blown me away. One thing that I hadn’t foreseen is how it would be adopted by readers of Greek heritage – a perfect example of the welcoming culture of philoxenia I mentioned before.

A real pinch-me moment came when it was named ‘Reading Greece Book of the Month’ by Greek government website Greek News Agenda, shortly after publication. But even more touching has been the personal feedback I’ve received from Greeks of the diaspora, and other readers with a special love for Greece.

It’s also a real joy when book clubs choose Unpacking for Greece, and I’m delighted when they invite me to join their gatherings via Zoom. Adam is getting used to me getting up in the middle of the night to chat with reading groups in the Western Hemisphere.


Tell us about your new book.

The second book in the ‘Packing for Greece’ series is called Repacking for Greece. It tells the story of how a long-forgotten apartheid-era arrest record resulted in my unexpected second journey to Greece. The narrative travels through ten Greek locations. Plus, there’s a bonus chapter from a later visit, because my memories of the island of Aegina were too special to leave out.

Repacking for Greece can be read as a stand-alone, but it is also a continuation of the personal transformation from middle-aged anxiety to midlife fulfilment that began in Unpacking for Greece. It was on this trip that I let go of anxiety and focused on the joy of the present moment, rather than endlessly chasing after something more.


Where do you get your ideas/inspiration?

Not only does Greece have a landscape of jaw-dropping splendour, but that landscape is layered with stories, from Bronze Age mythology and Aesop’s fables to contemporary literature. There’s never any shortage of inspiration.


Cover image of Repacking for Greece by Sally Jane Smith. Image of a Greek temple against a mauve and yellow sunset with and a hand holding a red book
Repacking for Greece is out now




Do you blog? If yes, tell us about it.

Instead of a blog, I send out a free email newsletter. It includes travel games, reading recommendations, writing news, and more. Subscribers get access to bonus content including a chapter I cut from the manuscript of Unpacking for Greece and a jigsaw puzzle created from one of my own Greek photographs. Sign up here.


What’s next for you?

Ah, that would be telling!

I do have a strong idea for another book (*coughs Packing for Crete*). But I still have some work to do before I know for sure whether it has the legs to stand as a story. And I’ve recently had an exciting conversation that has me dreaming of a 2025 trip to Lemnos, Lesbos, and the Zagorochoria region. And with a theme that could tie in with the Crete idea, or something else fresh and new.


 Anything else you want to share?

I have something I’m bursting to share, but I’m not allowed to release the details yet. What I can say is that there will be a live event on the evening of Wednesday, June 5th to celebrate the launch of Repacking for Greece. And if you live within commuting distance of Australia’s NSW Central Coast, you’re invited.

If you’re interested in free tickets, subscribe to my newsletter here. I’ll send you the details as soon as the news embargo is lifted.



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