A scholarship for his Canadian father to do his doctorate in Spain resulted in Yann Martel being born there in 1963. His father's occupation as a teacher and then a diplomat meant that Yann lived in various places including Alaska, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.
As an adult, he continued to travel the globe, spending time in Iran, Turkey and India. After studying philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, at age 27 he embarked on a writing career. Living or visiting many cultures influenced his writing, providing the rich cultural background mix in Life of Pi that garnered him the prestigious 2002 Booker Prize for fiction. To write Life of Pi, Martel spent six months in India visiting mosques, temples, churches and zoos, and then an entire year reading religious texts and castaway stories. After the research, the actual writing required two more years.
A free spirit, Martel says he now lives in Montreal, Quebec because that is where his plane landed. He does not like to be tied down so owns very little and in the past, a lack of money meant working at whatever odd jobs available that would allow him to travel and write.