My earliest memories are fantasies of boats and trains and setting off on adventures. I always wanted to go everywhere. Following the sun. I joined a mail order club called ‘The Adventurer’s Club’ – a monthly magazine full of opportunities and travel tips. They didn’t know I was only 10 years old and paying the subscription with the pocket money I earned by polishing the brass door knocker and hoovering the stairs. I made continent themed collages from pictures cut from travel brochures and stuck them on my walls. I did a full costing of the journey on the Trans-Siberian Express from London to Vladivostock, third class. A book came out when I was a teenager called ‘Work Your Way Around the World’ and its was my grubby bible before I’d done my O’Levels.
I had this recurring fantasy – which says as much about my teenage mental health as it does about my travel dreams. I wanted to wake up alone in a new city with no money and no language. I would then have to make it work and rely on my wits and resourceful nature. As I got older, I was always on the run, escaping or searching. At some point I stopped running from, and started running towards – but it was probably only in middle age. I hitch-hiked, back-packed, and fare-dodged my way all over the place, doing everything and going everywhere. Taking risks as I never had money. Even busking when needed, as a non-musician with a tambourine. Hooking up with all sorts of people for a place to stay.
I have been on holiday a lot, but it’s not holidaying that is the pull for me. Neither is it ‘independent travelling’ with a big rucksack on a hippy trail taking in a whistle stop tour of borders and sights. Those who eschew the package holiday but still traipse around in tie-dyes gangs to dip a toe into other places and take their washing home. I longed to be in that group for years – I was green with jealously at the idea of safe adventure – like in a soft play area with a ball pool. But for me it wasn’t and isn’t like that. It’s always been about chasing otherness, leaping in. I used to rail against my own nomadic nature. I wondered when I would settle down.
These days, in my late forties, I am more comfortable in my own skin. I am also a little safer and more risk averse. Now I have the usual aches and pains that come with middle age, but I also have a degenerative back condition resulting from spinal surgery I had aged sixteen. It means I have to medicate daily, and have chronic pain. I carry a back brace all the time in my bag, in case the pain is too much. These days I don’t do well sleeping on hard floors, or climbing mountains for days, but I am determined to continue to go on adventures. The ache for movement, for the next horizon, is still there, even if now I prefer a sit down toilet. I do have to consider the choices I make a little more carefully. Recently, I was excited about going on ‘The Gibbon Experience’ and living in treehouses with zipwires for three days, to watch wildlife. But being in the Laos jungle, far from medical care, means that I have postponed this idea, perhaps indefinitely.
So, I am no longer quite as manic; I go slowly, and I write about it. I travel when I can afford the time and the money, and I write to make sense and to make connections. One thing tends to trigger another. On the move, it’s easier to see the myriad interconnectedness of things. When I am travelling I see more of the forces behind things, yet I am a beginner each day – always trying to embrace otherness with a gentle heart. These days I miss less. I’m much older than that excitable little girl pouring over travel brochures, but I still want to go everywhere.
I am sharing the journeys, both outward and inward, here. Please read, if you want to…