I spent five weeks in Japan, bicycling between Tokyo and Kyoto, and visiting Hiroshima; met up with a young American woman in Hong Kong and traveled with her through China for two weeks; and rode the Trans-Siberian railroad through the heart of a glorious Soviet summer. If I reached a conclusion, it was: "Time heals, and travel is my favorite way to spend time."
Upon return to San Francisco, I holed up in a tiny apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district, lived on credit card money and wrote 10-16 hours a day, six and often seven days a week for nine months. When finished, spent and exhausted and broke, I started driving a taxi, which I found infinitely more fun than writing - and far more lucrative.
Over the next three years I did three major rewrites, and when Random House bought the manuscript in early 1988 (the most euphoric phone call, the most euphoric hour of my life), I received my all-time biggest payday: $15,000, minus my agent's fifteen percent.
I paid all my debts and in late 1988 hit the road with my backpack, my remaining $6,800, my notebook, and an utterly false conviction that I finally had a viable writing career. After circling the globe in 100 days I returned again to San Francisco, began writing "Take Me With You," went broke again, began driving a cab again, and in 1993 finally finished the manuscript. It took another six excruciating years to find a publisher, until September, 1999, when Travelers' Tales saw the light and gave me the sweetest $8,000 I've ever known, enabling me, finally, to follow through on the premise and the promise of "Take Me With You."
"All the Right Places" was published in 1989. It is several years out of print (I again own the rights), but amazon.com has been listing used copies for $5-100. I have a pristine box of Random House hardbacks up in my attic, wrapped in plastic for 13 years now. If you would like one, mail a $1,000 donation to Backpack Nation (PO Box 21347, Oakland, CA, 94620), and I will write something exquisite inside, drop it in the next day's mail, and, if you live anywhere near San Francisco, I will come to your house and clean your bathroom for you.