two memoirs

one story

A unique dual POV travel memoir

Part travel, part romance, part failing at life, The Backpack Years intertwines two memoirs, charting Stef and James’s six-year journey from happily wandering to miserably settled and back again.

Available for distribution through IngramSpark.

about the book

Part travel, part romance, part failing at life, The Backpack Years intertwines two memoirs, charting Stef and James’s six-year journey from happily wandering to miserably settled and back again.

Straight-laced Stef left America to study abroad in Spain, letting loose and falling head over heels for two things: a handsome local and travel. Travel won out.

James had a future in England he felt he’d already destroyed. Fueled by debt and a deteriorating relationship with his father, James fled to Australia and found something better.

After language mishaps in France and a topless night in Tenerife, an awful offal job in Warrnambool and a kidnapped manicure in Bali, Stef and James meet at an Irish pub in Sydney.

Though their adventures are pulling them in different directions, they ditch the single life to forge a path together.

Can the two navigate their way through red-tape, relocation, miscommunication, and a last ditch, make-or-break trip to try to save their relationship, or will this be their last adventure as a couple?

Spanning thirteen countries and four continents, The Backpack Years is a story about how far we’re willing to go to be with the one we love.

part one

A World Apart

Immerses us in the couple’s individual travels before they met.

part two

Falling Down Under

Describes how the couple meet in Australia and fall in love.

part three

Across the Pond

Shares the complications of their relationship.

part four

The Way Home

Brings us on a journey of relationship healing across Asia.


"I truly loved this book because of how real it was. Stef and James write with such beautiful prose, providing perfect examples of imagery."
"I really enjoyed getting dual perspectives because it’s not often found in memoirs. The alternating POVs was executed excellently and the book really flowed.

Erika Lacey Reads

Instagram Book Reviewer

"The Wilsons, through their tandem memoirs, take their reader on an achingly candid and emotional tour of their youthful travel experiences."

Rachel Deeming

Reedsy Discovery

"Whether you’re a fan of memoirs, real life love stories, or vicarious travel experiences, you’ll find something to like in this book."

"The Backpack Years was such an insightful look into the world of travel in all of its ups and downs... and I definitely recommend their story!"
"I recommend to anyone who loves travel memoirs, books with multiple narrators, and needs some inspiration in overcoming obstacles."
"I simply didn't want to put down the book: I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I can't seem to consume non fiction like I do fiction but with this book tables changed."

Michelle Omeno

Empress of Buckingham

"A beautifully dual written memoir... A delightful, fresh twist on the travel memoir... It is an easy read, insightful and very inspirational."

Travel With a Book

Instagram Book Reviewer

stefanie wilson

Written by James Wilson.

Stef is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States. She’s been a teacher for sixteen years and loves to take her niece to the park and make up scavenger hunts. Stef still needs her patient, handsome husband James to explain the TV remotes, but she’ll beat anybody at Jeopardy.

She and James love to travel, but when they are home in the Burgh, they spend time with her family and top all of their food with French fries. The Backpack Years is Stef’s first published work.

james wilson

Written by Stefanie Wilson.

James was born in Warrington, England, and though he’s almost lived more of his life outside Britain than in it, he still loves a good English breakfast and never misses a Manchester United match. He’s a devoted son and calls his mum often to hear updates on who won bingo.

James is a graphic designer and lives in Pittsburgh. He’s accident and illness-prone, and appreciates his loving, beautiful wife Stef, who has nursed him back to health countless times. They enjoy spending time outdoors camping, hiking, and mountain biking. The Backpack Years is James’ first published work.


Why did you write the book?


I kept detailed journals from all of the places I visited, and I’d wanted to write a travel memoir for a long time. I actually did complete one, but it was terrible.

James and I were driving to visit my parents in Pittsburgh one summer, and I mentioned to him that I was just going to give up on it.


Stef said she didn’t think there was anything special about her story, and I felt bad hearing her talk about giving up since I knew it was something she’d been working on for a long time.

I suggested we write a book of short travel stories together.

Why did you write the book anonymously?


I have anxiety, and the idea of the general public knowing my name freaks me out.

And my mom has anxiety, worse than me, and if our whole family knew all of those stories about me—I mean, a few are pretty bad—she might be the first person to literally die of embarrassment


Same goes for me. There’s definitely some stories my mum would be embarrassed about.

Also, even though it’s been almost 20 years since my debt issues, I still feel bad about myself and ashamed to share those issues with the world.

Are you still married?


Even our writing teacher was like, "yeah, I think my wife and I would kill each other if we tried that."

Yeah, at first we weren’t on the same page about our goals for the project. But James always knew that I wanted to sell my book, so I just assumed he knew I’d want to sell this one, too.

So we did have many long discussions about what to include. By discussions, I mean me trying to convince him to write about stuff he didn’t want to, because I knew it would be better for the story.


We get that question a lot when we tell people we wrote a book together.

For me, I never imagined we would publish the book. I thought it would be a great shared experience to write together and document our travels, and it was. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were many creative differences along the way but overall it was very rewarding.

Although once we decided this thing could be a published book that others would read, it made the writing tougher for me and I definitely held up proceedings.

What kinds of books do you read? Who are your favorite authors?


I read a lot of non-fiction. I’m really curious, and there are always things I want to learn about. Some of my recent favorites were Metropolis, 1491, and The Inconvenient Indian.

Bill Bryson is my favorite author. I love his memoirs, obviously, but I also enjoy his other non-fiction books. He can make literally anything funny.


I’m actually not a huge reader. Although I did listen to a lot of audiobooks when I had a long commute to work.

I gravitate towards memoirs. Kevin Hart and Trevor Noah are my favorites.

Why do you recommend your book to book clubs?


As the book contains themes of taking chances, pursuing happiness, and making the most of your time on Earth, it is resonating with a post-pandemic audience. Many readers have felt connected to it in ways they might not have at previous times in history, and that can spark some relevant and interesting conversations.

James has a list of potential questions for book club readers.


1. Who's the best, Stef or James? Just kidding. Who did you identify with?
2. What book locations have you visited, or want to visit now?
3. Is there anything you learned about a country?
4. A previous title for the book was Same Same But Different. Did you notice any parallels in the story between Stef and James's lives? Any events that happened a couple of times in different ways?
5. Who was your favorite minor character?
6. Have you or would you ever quit your job to go somewhere new?

Contact us

We are available for interviews or podcasts. For more information check out our Press Kit.


If you would like to leave a review, please visit the book listing on Amazon. Much appreciated.


To see more reviews, check out our Goodreads page.

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the backpack years

two memoirs one story

Written by Stefanie & James Wilson

© Published by Tucky Buddy Books 2022. All rights reserved.
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