Sara Barnard talks travelling solo and welcoming the unknown in her YA novel, Destination Anywhere

"Be realistic about what travelling solo means – are you prepared to feel lonely sometimes?"


In Destination Anywhere, Sara Barnard explores love, life and friendship in this exquisite tale of the lengths one girl will go to to change her story.

After five years at secondary school spent without any friends, Peyton King starts sixth form college determined that things will be different. Whatever happens, she will make friends at any cost. When she finds the friends she’s always dreamed of, including an actual boyfriend, she’s happier than she’s ever been. But when they let her down in the worst way, Peyton is left no better off than when she started. Now Peyton knows the only chance she has of finding happiness is to look for it somewhere else.

We had the honour of chatting with Sara about her own solo adventure.

In Destination Anywhere, Peyton decided to leave England to start her adventure in Vancouver. The inspiration comes from the time you did an exchange at the University of Victoria, right? Why did you pick to do your exchange in Canada back then?

Yes! I spent my third year of uni studying in Canada, which was amazing. I actually ended up in Canada by chance – we had a list of universities we could choose from, and we had to make a shortlist of preferences before we could be allocated a university. Most of my choices were American universities, because I was an American Studies student. I think the University of Victoria in Canada was actually my fourth choice! It was the best thing that could have happened. I had the most incredible time and wouldn’t change it for the world. Canada will always have a part of my heart now.

What are the main similarities and differences between Peyton’s experience and yours? Is there anything that Peyton did that you wish you had done?

Honestly, none! Aside from the feelings she describes when the plane takes off from Gatwick, and she has this strong feeling that she won’t be the same person when she next lands on British soil. I had a much more structured adventure, because I was studying at the time. I wish I could have travelled even half as much as Peyton – I was desperate to go to Banff, but I just couldn’t afford it. Some of the places she goes are pure wish fulfilment for me!

The illustrations in the book look amazing! Tell us the progress – who came up with that idea, how did you pick the scenes etc.

It was my editor’s idea to have illustrations, and I was thrilled to say yes! I found the illustrator on Instagram, and contacted her because I thought her style would really work. Her name is Christiane Fuertges, and she did a brilliant job. I went through the text and picked out the places where Peyton describes what she was drawing, and made a guide for Christiane using the text itself and photos of the real-life places.

Also, let’s talk about the chapter titles! In Destination Anywhere, we are jumping back and forth between “BEFORE” and “NOW”. The “BEFORE” titles are always very long and descriptive while the “AFTER” titles are just Peyton’s location in Canada. What’s the story behind this choice?

The ‘before’ sections are very retrospective, and a way for Peyton to process everything that happened. So she’s imagining them in those terms, with little asides like “You could make a blanket out of all these red flags” to go with them. In Canada, she’s just living in the moment (and it’s in the present tense!) so she’s not in a position to know – yet! – how she’ll remember them in the future. It’s just where she’s going.

Any tips for those who want to embark on a solo adventure?

Plan! Don’t do what Peyton did. Think about where you want to go, how you’re going to get there, how much money you need, that kind of thing. Also, be realistic about what travelling solo means – are you prepared to feel lonely sometimes? Will you feel confident talking to people and making friends as you go?

Are you currently working on anything new? Can you share with us some teasers?

My next book comes out in July this year, and follows a girl called Rosie during her difficult first year of uni. I’m currently working on the edits for my next book after that, which will be published in 2023. More on that soon…

What’s on your TBR list?

Everything! My TBR list is SO long. And it just keeps growing!

Get your copy of Destination Anywhere here.

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