I’ve wanted to travel and see what’s out there, on this planet, 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 actually 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 close to kidnap in Mali. 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. 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.
It doesn't help that I've had fibromyalgia for the last twenty years (it's now morphed into Long Covid) and have always struggled with depression. Before my trips, anticipation keeps me afloat, when I'm travelling excitement and curiosity maintain momentum, and when I come home, I crash for a week or more to recover. Then, I start to plan my next trips.
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 three month trips thinking ‘This will cure me’, but the sense of something new round every corner just makes me worse.
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.
I usually travel solo. partly because friends aren't mad enough to do the things I do and partly because it's the best way to get under the skin of a place and really interact. (Read more about reasons for solo travel in my Travel Tips)
Travel necessitates quite a lot of flying (I spend my air miles to upgrade if I can). I would always opt for overland (especially train) for preference, for environmental reasons and 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 why I travel at all. Then, that curiosity gene kicks in again and I remind myself that I always love it when I finally get to my destination. And I do.
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