Today we meet Henry Biernacki, a pilot who is originally from Pennsylvania who has embarked on a captivating life of travel and living abroad. Keen to experience everything the world has to offer, Henry has made sampling life overseas his primary purpose in life and this has led to fascinating adventures and life-changing experiences. Here Henry shares just some of his stories with us and describes how his time as an expat inspired him to write his book: No More Heroes.
1. You are somewhat of a serial expat. Can you please tell us a little about your background? Where are you originally from and why did you decide to adopt a life of travel?
Travelers enter a point where we stop looking at where we have been, and look at where we have not been. From there, we begin to make decisions on where we would like to live and work.
Growing up, moving several times, and changing schools, six times before the age of ten, I realized I could adapt to many environments, even overseas. I spent my youth in Pennsylvania, and then moved to Colorado.
I began traveling with my rucksack when I was 17. The moment I crossed the border into Mexico, I realized I would travel and work overseas.
I went to a Liberal Arts school in Colorado. I also studied in Oaxaca, Mexico and Paris, France. After I graduated university, I went traveling around the world, sleeping in the streets, hitchhiking, taking trains, buses and any way I could travel, I would go. I spent 3700USD that year.
When I returned to the United States, I decided to go to flight school. The pivotal factor for this way of life was: I wanted to be paid for my hobbies. Why work to have a way of life, but rather be paid for my way of life? I had been writing for a few years before I began flying. I progressed with my writing as I went to flight school.
I began taking flight lessons at Sunrise Aviation at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA. There were times I slept in my van outside a hotel. I woke up to use their pool as my shower. When I had my commercial multi engine rating, I went to the West Indies: went island to island to see if I could get hired to fly. I met Tony Ottley in St. Kitt’s. I made absolutely nothing, maybe 1000USD a year. Yes, a year! I flew vegetables around the islands. At the end of the day, I took vegetables out of the boxes. I did this so I could eat. It was not about the money. I wanted to fly for the love of flying, and not to make money, yet. There is a time to make money and a time to earn my way, and that was one of those times to earn my path.
I am currently flying for Virgin America (Airbus 320). Before that, I flew with China Airlines (Boeing 747-400), then was Omni Air International (Boeing 757).
2. You have lived in France, Germany, Taiwan, the West Indies and Mexico, which did you like the most and why?
My adventures influence me to slow down, more than pressing me out of my comfort zone. They make me realize a lack of control with the process, and the outcome sorts itself out. Being outside my comfort zone makes me submit to the widest possible range of experiences. I cannot say I enjoyed one area more than another, since I was there at different points of my life. We make the most out of the places we choose to live. The people certainly make the place easier to live. I enjoyed being in France and Mexico. The people seem to slow down life, not being in such a rush all of the time.
3. Which did you like the least?
I have discovered this of living overseas: no one place is any better than another, and wherever we are, we have to make it memorable. At a point, the more I travel; I realize I am not a guest anymore, especially when I am living in a country. I do not think we know when that is, we sort of seamlessly ramble into that stage of life.
Living and working in Taiwan was the least favorite. The people were not welcoming, and China Airlines is not a very good airline. The airline continuously tried to change or go against what we signed as our contracts. Also, flying is about being safe in the cockpit. The company has people who do not want to listen how to be a safer airline. They only follow their way of doing things. It has nothing to do with culture, but they hide behind culture, and forget to grow from people who may know something they do not know.
4. What are the three biggest lessons you have learned from your expat life?
Make your heart skip a beat, and finally go outside the normal-everyday-life. The extent I travel and have lived in other countries, without knowing the outcome; yet only to find, seeking an experience to then aggregate to my knowledge, will only benefit when negative situations occur. By continuously exiting my banality, life demonstrates events that merely, at a glance, seem to frustrate me.
In the end, I have learned several important parts of life from living overseas. 1. Being flexible, keeping things simple with “routines” we make through life, is a crucial key to enjoying life anywhere. But moreover, to truly enjoy being an Expat, it is a must. 2. I became educated of grand patience, by living as an Expat. In most parts of the world, things are completed at a very different rate than one expects. That could be frustrating if someone lacks the ability to see things objectively. 3. Finally, I learned so many people claim to be open-minded to new ideas, until their fundamental ideologies are challenged, then they will block any new way of thinking. This is not a negative thing, but people should stop saying open-minded, and merely practice that way of life.
5. What advice would you give to someone who was relocating overseas for the first time?
A traveler is the truest of diplomats, but living overseas may be even better said, that an Expat is the truest of diplomats. Exposing myself to the widest possible range of experiences, without a care to find the true outcome of the experiment of life, allows me to learn how to adapt more and more.
I constantly remind myself to stay orientated on learning, not become fixated on one idea. We have become too politically correct as a modern world. I believe people are afforded the right, through experiences, to have opinions. I would certainly recommend speaking your mind. We do not have to accept everything someone else does, but when you have a question, ask.
I hear the words, open-minded and culturally diverse far too much these days. I hear it around the world from people and all around the media. I recommend people discontinue using these words, and merely go for a walk around the world to see just how open-minded and culturally diverse they really are, rather than just letting these words be shoved in our minds for us to say back without having meaning to them. Speaking about ideologies simply bores me, as I would rather see some action behind these words.
6. You have written a book that explores life and friendship across cultures. Please tell us more about the book’s content.
“No More Heroes”, is a sensitive, insightful telling story. The novel, written with style, describes the scenes and images Niklas encounters along this journey.
This unique piece of story-telling, “No More Heroes,” began in July: a novel where people were his heroes, a recital of experiences- thoughts between people while Niklas learned to enjoy the fleeting moment, LIFE! It does not matter if someone has visited San Francisco or even Nepal, Niklas describes the scene, allowing a reader to dive breathlessly into the setting. Suria aka Foxybird and Niklas share an uncommon tender friendship where
their dialogue allows the reader to travel effortlessly deeper into the book. At the beginning, Niklas thought he was adding to Suria’s life, while towards the middle he realizes she was adding to his. Finally, they realized they needed one another for different reasons. They never discuss her illness or what would be the outcome. “No More Heroes’ themes center on human interaction, traveling, love, friendships, philosophy, and sharing. In learning the value of these ideas, opportunities to create a powerful existence out of life are formed.
James M. Montoya, Vice President The College Board and Former Dean of Admission Stanford University describes the novel: “No More Heroes” is a beautifully written testimony to the art of living. It is a poetic and joyful reminder of those seemingly ordinary moments and interactions that are indeed so extraordinary. Henry Biernacki shares with the reader an uncommon sense of wonder and a profound sense of humanity. It is a rare gem in the form of a 180 page novel.
7. What prompted you to write it?
I did not begin taking notes or journaling with the idea of writing novels or articles. I took notes on what went on around me. I never wanted to write a book based on my travels, which is why, I only write fiction. The more I traveled, the more I wanted to bring people closer to the places around the world. If I could describe an area of the world, most people may not visit, and do it in such a way to make them feel as if they are traveling, that would be a wonderful outcome. I began writing twenty-two years ago, and finally have a novel out, along with articles about traveling.
8. Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will it do for other people? How will it help?
Writing a book is a very time consuming project. As I said earlier, I have been writing for twenty-two years. I was in no rush to publish anything, or even see my name in print. I took the geographical settings, where I had been, and placed them in the book to make it more believable. The conversations with people, from around the world, I also used. Although, the characters are made up, some of the conversations come from people, with whom, I have spoken to around the world. This is why the book has such a non-fiction feel to it.
“No More Heroes,” the fashion with which it is written, may expose people to want to read Walt Whitman. I do appreciate his poetry, and I included his works in the book. I have a selection of friendships throughout the novel that, normally, are not even acquaintances in actual life. This may drive people outside their normal group of friends to search people with very different backgrounds. That is the uniqueness of this book: the way people have come into one another’s lives, becoming friends, while sharing moments together.
The book may help people realize that enjoying a friend is truly a very special way to spend the days, not rushing, but faithfully enjoying the times spent with people.
9. How did you publish your book? Did you find an agent, a publisher or did you publish it yourself? Can you offer any tips to expats who are considering writing their own books? Please describe your process and tell us how you found the experience.
My publicist (Steve Schneickert) and I functioned very well together, deciding on what we wanted to do: work with a publishing company and have them take full control of the novel, or work with AuthorHouse, a self publishing company, making sure we could all add our thoughts on what we wanted to do with the product, “No More Heroes”. AuthorHouse, my publicist, and I worked together in putting the best product on the shelves.
The process of writing a novel could be overwhelming if someone views the destination, rather than taking the small appropriate steps towards having one finished, and on the bookstore shelves. To think about an idea is one thing. Then, to begin speaking about it, is another. Writing about it begins the process of having something concrete. It is merely the beginning though, the writing. You go through countless edits and grammar checks. After you have done this, which could take years, you move onward to find an agent, publicist, and publisher. That is an entirely new level of thinking. You go from creating, to showing people that your work is worth being out there, in short, promoting yourself. You do not sell your book; you sell your background, and why you wrote the book, and what you have to offer the readers.
You move from creating, to the business side of books. You have to have a marketing plan if you self publish, and if you go with another publisher, they will only market your book maybe four months, since they are always working on releasing their next book. Books are like movies and anything else: they have a shelf life. If they continue to be marketed, they will stay on the shelf, if not, they will be pulled. It is a humbling process. You are going to have to make your way into bookstores, asking to do book signings; contacting radio shows about interviews, and trying to get the word out about your new novel. It takes patience and consistency.
The best marketing tool I have found: do an article a month or writing constantly for a publication. This keeps your name out there, being in perpetual view of the public, and those who read. If you are on the radio, doing interviews, that is another way to get the word out. However, do not be a guest on the radio promoting yourself and your book. Allow the hosts to promote you, the website, and your novel.
10. What’s next for you?
It is not difficult to have an idea, creating an adventure. A further greater barrier is achieving an outcome, and the grand energy it takes to seek through many avenues to have such an adventure, which naturally is the most demanding part of the entire effort.
When I stopped caring for the destination and fell in love with the process, this began the most exciting adventure of my life. I still travel very simply, writing about the experiences in a fiction way. I am contacting some shows about doing a traveling series, to different spots of the world, with no itinerary, jumping off the plane to explore the region with a set amount of money for a week. It depends on where I am in the world on how much the amount would be, but nothing over 400 USD.
11. Finally, where can people buy your book?
“No More Heroes” can be found in the E-Book format: NOOK, KINDLE or at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles or any bookstore. I have found bookstores will not carry every book that is printed yet they can order any book with the ISBN Number:
(978-1-4520-8977-5) E-Book (NOOK and Kindle)
(978-1-4520-8976-8) Hard Back
(978-1-4520-8975-1) Soft Back