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Interview: Joseph Davida, Author of ‘Traveling High and Tripping Hard’

After a near death experience at age fifteen, Joseph Davida left his parents’ home and moved into Manhattan. Too young to get a “real” job, he started up what became one of the biggest weed delivery services in New York to support himself while he pursued his career as a musician and songwriter.

For years he worked with some of the best musicians in the world, until a nervous breakdown brought his time in the music industry to an end. During this time he traveled the world before finally settling in Nashville, where he had two beautiful daughters and started a successful chain of retail stores. He now concentrates on being a good father, and actively plans for the coming revolution while also working to get his many stories onto the page.

Congratulations on the release of your book, Traveling High and Tripping Hard. When did you start writing and what got you into nonfiction?

I’ve always been writing something. I’ve found that it’s the best way to purge all of the insanity out of my life. Once you get the words onto a page, it’s no longer just your shit anymore—but can belong to anyone who wants to take the time to read it. In the case of my book, I’m trying to figure out a way to include moist towelettes with it, so you can wipe away any dirt you might feel when you finish. That’s the reason I write nonfiction. For me to enjoy a good book, I want to feel the grime that the writer sat in after getting arrested and placed in the backseat of a police car.

What is your book about?

It’s about doing all of the things your mom raised you not to do. It’s about figuring out the human condition by exposing yourself to all of the amazing things humanity, and the world have to offer. For me, one of the most prominent things I’ve been interested in is the possibilities and limitations of the mind. Since I was exposed to psychedelics at a very young age (I had my first mind altering experience at eight), I became obsessed with how far I could push the limits of my own consciousness through religion, prayer, and psychedelic experiences. My conclusion was the psychedelics worked best (for me).

What was your inspiration for it?

Well, since the book is pretty much a memoir, parts of my life were the inspiration. But as far as what shaped my life, I’d have to say the Beatles and George Lucas played the biggest part. From the time I could push the power button on my 8-track player, I listened relentlessly to Sgt. Pepper and the White album.

I needed to understand what inspired people to create these incredible sounds. Add to that the concept of the “Force” in Star Wars, and the mystery in the archeology of Indiana Jones, and you get a good idea of why I did some of the things I did, and the places I traveled to. All it takes is a day in the rainforests of Guatemala, the temples of Kathmandu, or the Pyramids of Egypt… and I don’t know how you wouldn’t be inspired.

Who is your target audience?

Ideally people with very narrow minds, but realistically I know they will probably never read my stuff. More realistically would be younger college aged kids, backpackers, psychonauts (psychedelic enthusiasts), musicians, and people who are generally just interested in travel, spirituality, and foreign cultures. I’d like to think people who read Burroughs and Thompson might enjoy it, but I make no claims to write nearly as well as either of them. Nor do I attempt to emulate their styles.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

Finding the motivation to get serious and take hundreds of pages of scribble scrabble, and attempt to actually make a book out of it. As a musician, it would be the equivalent of taking a million song ideas, and turning them into an album. Ideas come cheap. Ironing things out into a cohesive whole is the challenge. I usually enjoyed the creative process, I just hated getting a mix finalized. That’s what editing became. A real pain in the ass.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

The inspiration to go out and explore the world and their own minds. We live in a very safety oriented culture, and I believe in many cases it does more harm than good. If we go through life without making terrible decisions, and learning to overcome obstacles…we stop growing. America used to be the land of passion and excitement, but these days it seems we have become enslaved by our own concepts of fear. I’d like to see people get a more global perspective on things and try and get the most out of life.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Oh yeah. I had to expose myself to 15 years of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. It was terrible.

What was your publishing process like?

I have very little patience. I knew I needed to get the book out before the apocalypse, so I decided to publish it myself. Luckily, I’m no longer a starving artist, so the idea that I would need to rely on other people to make things happen—was fortunately an unnecessary hindrance. Of course, people have helped me, but thankfully I don’t have to work for any of them.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

Get out there and do lots of stupid stuff. The more screwed up your life is, the more interesting your writing will be. If it doesn’t work out in the end, at least you will have cool stories for your grandchildren.

What has writing taught you?

That you will never be happy with your own ability. You will always think you can get better, and the only way to get better is to keep writing. It’s all about the process.

About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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