I’ve wanted to travel and see what’s out there ever since I was small. I don’t know why, though I’ve read that some people have a curiosity gene. As a family, we holidayed in British seaside resorts, if at all. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I made my first trip abroad aged 11. A school day trip to Dieppe. And I could have died. (Perhaps.) There was a huge storm in the Channel. Not the last time that happened to me either, though on the second occasion I was on a 26 foot catamaran on the same stretch of water, it was gusting 11 and it was a decidedly more dubious situation. Since then I’ve survived thievery, volcanic eruptions, landslides and aircraft engine failure. I’ve been to hospital in Tibet, had my appendix out in Kathmandu and my leg has been encased in plaster after I fell off a waterfall in Venezuela. I was rescued by the police on Christmas Island and a companion was attacked by a shark on the Cocos islands. I came far too close to terrorists In Mali. And I made it into The Sun as a foolhardy tourist after I went to North Korea. Click here to read the article. It hasn’t put me off. Well not for long. It’s a risky business living and driving in the UK too, at times. And I’ve been robbed more often in London than I have abroad.
Another border, another country. As fast as I complete my bucket list, travellers I meet tell me about new fabulous possible destinations. I’ve done thee month trips thinking ‘This will cure me’, but the sense of something new round very corner just makes me worse. When I’m home, my spare time is taken up planning my next trips.
I don’t think I’m your typical passport stamp collector. I sold my flat in Putney and bought more cheaply in Brighton to fund my travelling. I had to, because as I’ve got older comfort has become increasingly important. For reasons of economy, my first long journeys were basic camping trips across Europe with a two man tent. But I don’t enjoy getting dirty, or back-aches from sleeping on hard ground and I hate wandering around looking for the toilet in the middle of the night. So I go for mid-range (or better) local hotels of character when I can, avoiding soulless chains that all aspire to look as if they’re in America.
Most of the countries I still have to visit are in Africa. They usually involve visas that are a minefield of bureaucracy (and expense), less hospitable terrain and unpredictable accommodation. So, I chunk up my travel, returning home to file more visa applications, earn a little more money (I’m an education consultant) and market my flat on AirBnB ( I rent it out while I’m away) and then venturing out again.
This necessitates quite a lot of flying (I spend my air miles to upgrade when I can). I would always opt for overland (especially train) for preference, not least, because I’m terrified of turbulence. It’s a fear I’m learning to conquer, finally, although large quantities of Rescue Remedy (or gin and tonic) are required.
Frankly, I’m scared of so many things, at times I ask myself I wonder why I travel at all. Then that curiosity gene kicks in again and just remind myself that I always love it when I get there. And I do. Now my goal of visiting every country in the world looks possible. I have a plan…tempus fugit.
"I just happened to glance at the night sky and I marvelled at the millions of stars glistening like pieces of quicksilver thrown carelessly onto black velvet. In awe I watched the waxen moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an amber chariot towards the void of infinite space wherein the tethered bolts of Jupiter and Mars hang forever in their orbital majesty; and as I looked at all this, I thought, ‘I must put a roof on this lavatory’."
What’s this bit doing here? A bog standard report? I’m simply fascinated by toilets – a crucial aspect of every journey. I spend a substantial amount of time on each trip looking for them, anticipating them, planning for them and evaluating them. They vary from the ultra-comfortable ultra -high-tech heated bowls of Japan and Korea to the gut-wrenching open trenches in China, where there is no privacy and children scramble to watch, to the side of the open road in the bush Africa. ‘Women on the left side of the truck, men on the right’. If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go….
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