You Had Me at Hola

Author(s): Leigh Robshaw

Biographies | Sunshine Coast Authors

In February 1995, a young Australian woman leaves home for the first time to backpack through Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru for three months. A lost soul with a deep-seated desire for love and adventure - and an obsession with Latin America bordering on a mental health disorder - Leigh is willing to embrace everything this fascinating continent has to offer.


On her third day in Buenos Aires, she has a chance meeting with Gabriel, a handsome Peruvian artisan, and falls instantly in love. With only one day left in Buenos Aires before embarking on her trip with her travel partner Emily, Leigh devotes every spare minute to Gabriel and their bond is sealed.


Vowing to return to Buenos Aires and be with Gabriel, Leigh is conflicted as she leaves him to travel and fulfil her lifelong dream to experience Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, the Amazon and Carnival in Brazil. With no mobile phones or internet, it's almost impossible to stay in touch while Leigh is on the road and she worries about Gabriel losing interest or worse, meeting someone else. Anxiety and self-doubt force her to question his trustworthiness and her own wisdom in pursuing the relationship.


But Leigh returns to Buenos Aires to find Gabriel waiting for her, even more beautiful than she remembered. What was to be three months becomes three years, as she gives herself over to a new life, living like a local and conducting her relationship with Gabriel entirely in Spanish. Her rudimentary understanding of the language gradually becomes so deeply imprinted in her psyche, she begins dreaming in Spanish rather than English.


They move in with Gabriel's family in Lima to a large house crammed with three generations living under one roof in a dangerous part of the city. Under the watchful eye of Gabriel's mother, who does not approve of Leigh's vegetarianism or her sharing of Gabriel's bed out of wedlock, they fall into a drug-fuelled city lifestyle, until tragedy forces them to flee.


Leigh and Gabriel head north in search of a place to settle down and make a living selling jewellery to tourists. They join Latin America's vibrant brotherhood and sisterhood of travelling artisans, selling jewellery made with semi-precious stones in streets and squares spanning Peru to Mexico.


Living on little or no money, they trade jewellery for food and shelter, skip meals, sleep on beaches and mix in dangerous circles, dodging bandits and narrowly escaping death. Relying on their wits and the kindness of strangers, they find their way to Playa del Carmen, an idyllic Caribbean village in the Yucatan Peninsula that is beginning to rival Cancun and Acapulco as Mexico's most popular tourist destination.


In Playa del Carmen, they live in a thatched-roof cabana by the sea, selling thousands of dollars worth of jewellery to wealthy tourists flooding into the town. Dreaming of marriage, children and a happy future in this tropical paradise, they live a lifestyle neither thought possible. Until everything changes.


Desperate to stay in Playa del Carmen with Gabriel no matter what, Leigh finds herself venturing into increasingly dark places that put her safety at risk and test her sense of morality. Finally, after a shocking betrayal, she must face the truth about the man she has devoted her life to - and about herself.


You Had Me at Hola is a passionate, colourful and daringly honest memoir about finding yourself, partly through the many challenges posed by travel, but also in terms of increasingly defining yourself against your lover.


It's a heartfelt tale about finding your true life's purpose, facing your shadow and the primal quest for belonging.


And ultimately, it's a story about and saving yourself, because you finally realise you are worth saving.

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High Country Indi Award Winner

' This book is fucking fantastic. It made me feel young again. These are the adventures that we only ever dream of, that are reserved for the truly free. Leigh, you love hard and let your soul take the wheel. The minute I closed it, I wanted to buy a one- way ticket to anywhere. Thank you for sharing and for waking me up. I couldn't put this book down. My husband stole it off me, he is a book snob, has read everything, and absolutely fell in love with you and your story. Someone has to make it into a movie! Love love love and gratitude and fire, Con.'

- Constance Hall, author of Like a Queen and Still a Queen

'OMG, what an amazing story. This book really takes you into the heart of South America, but what makes it such a great read is not just the gripping travel story, it's the love story between a young woman on her first trip abroad and a Peruvian artisan. And beneath that is the compelling tale of a woman searching for and ultimately finding, self-love and self-acceptance.'

- Lisa Messenger, CEO of Collective Hub, author of Work from Wherever and Daring & Disruptive

Leigh Robshaw is a journalist, freelance writer, and editor. Her features and news stories have been published by magazines and newspapers across Australia and internationally. She also contributes to a number of business and lifestyle websites.


She lives in the subtropical hills of Maleny on Australia's east coast with her two children. This is her first book.

General Fields

  • : 9780648562603
  • : Morpho Books
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Leigh Robshaw
  • : English
  • : 241