The five places that changed my life: Paige Toon


I used to go to France every year as a child while my dad (Australian motorsport legend  Vern Schuppan) was racing at Le Mans and we stayed in a decrepit townhouse full of cobwebs and dark spaces that terrified and thrilled me in equal measure. My brother and I lost hours mucking about on the nearby river in a rowboat, eating wild strawberries and trying to catch lizards basking in the afternoon sun. My delight transformed to horror when once I actually succeeded and the poor creature's tail dropped off in my fingers.


Much of my childhood was spent in America, and although we were based predominantly in Indianapolis and Phoenix, we toured the country in a Ford station wagon with a rear window that rolled down, revealing petrified forests, endless cacti, canyons and mountains. After university, my future husband and I lived in Indianapolis for six months, which partly inspired us to call our son Indy.


This is another place my family visited regularly when my dad was racing and I recall sleeping on thin mattresses on bamboo floors with walls made of paper, switching shoes for slippers upon entering buildings and mastering chopsticks (but only ever daring to eat sticky rice). One time, my brother and I were asleep and our parents were downstairs having a business dinner when an earthquake struck – he and I packed our bags in a hurry, but it was only a tremor and everyone found the sight of us bursting into the restaurant in our PJs highly amusing.


I'm based in England, but my parents, brother and family live in Australia and every year we get together for a big holiday. My favourite of all of these was Thailand, a country that more than lived up to expectations I had from seeing picture-perfect scenes of crystal clear waters and green islands exploding from the sea. Watching my children and their tiny cousin building sandcastles on balmy, sunset-skied beaches will stay with me forever.


Although we travelled a lot, our permanent home was in the Adelaide Hills – until I was a teenager, when we moved permanently to England. Returning to Australia regularly ever since has not only kept my homesickness at bay, but has also provided me with some of my most memorable holidays. I learnt to scuba dive in Portugal in a cold, cloudy, green Atlantic Ocean. It was pretty grim, but it opened up an underwater world to me in The Great Barrier Reef. I'm still awestruck remembering giant clams, huge manta rays gliding out of the blue and night dives with lion fish and sleepy sharks. I can't wait to share the experience with my children when they're old enough.

Paige Toon is an internationally bestselling author, with more than a million copies sold in 15 countries. Five Years from Now (Penguin Random House Australia; $29.99) is her 12th novel. See