To Travel or not to travel, that is the question

Trip Start Sep 1999
Trip End May 2004

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Sunday, May 18, 2003

Despite what my friends may sometimes think, especially when my latest email of travel news hits them in the middle of their 9-6 dull, grey City working day, my sort of travelling is definitely not just a long holiday. And after 4 years I have had enough feedback from the travelogues I have sent out on the www to know that not everyone is cut out for travel. Not everyone craves to be doing what I'm doing. Far from it in fact!

So whilst I am a self-confessed travel junkie, don't feel pressured into practicing what I'm preaching. Ditching a thriving career and abandoning your family and friends to disappear off into the sunset armed only with backpack, boots and a big smile is (and even I realise this) reasonably drastic action.

For most people the idea of randomly wandering around dirty and potentially dangerous foreign places, with no tour guides and definitely no luxury, is their worst nightmares. For others who actually do leave, many (particularly in Australia) have simply swapped work and partying at home for less stressful work and more extreme partying somewhere else. Usually this is also somewhere with warmer weather, better beaches and for the females, unending perving on surfing bodies. After a year of this hardship they will probably come home and melt anonymously straight back into their old way of life.

For a few of us (weird/mad?) people, travel actually becomes our way of life. Once you have travelled a long way, you never return all the way back. We can't quite get used to that safe, stable, wealthy existence everyone else enjoys. For unknown reasons we miss the challenge of the unknown, the physical hardships, biting insects, hygiene hurdles, endless bus journeys, dodgy food, impossible languages, bizarre cultures, the low (low, low, lowĄ..) depths of the frequent bad times and the mind-blowing unbeatable highs of the good times.

If you read these stories and they send shivers of horror up your spine and make your concrete office seem like heaven, then budget travelling just isn't for you. Even so I really hope that you might still feel inspired to call a "Time Out" on your life and look objectively at it. Is it what you want? Does it keep you interested? Because if you want to actively participate in your own life its healthy to take time to sit back and evaluate your gameplay. In any arena - sport, work, relationships, life - it's the subsequent small, incisive changes that can make such a difference.

Of course you may have noticed that when I sat on my own sidelines in 1999, I was really shocked by the game I was watching myself play. So shocked in fact that instead of strategic substitutions in bits of my team, I chose just to scrap my whole game completely, retire disillusioned and take up something entirely different.

But for most people, Evolution is the right way, not such a life-changing Revolution. Its often quoted but still true that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". Write a wish list. Do something different. Try something new. Think of all the places you want to see. All the things you want to do. The things that would make you smile. Samba in Santiago. Punt in Cambridge. Drink tea in India. See more of friends. Learn to surf. Go gliding. Ride a horse. Walk a coastline. Watch an International Rugby game. See a desert sunset. Climb a mountain. Play the piano. Read a new book every week. Try a new wine every Sunday.

It started innocently enough just this way for me, with these last three things designed to cheer up a weary career-builder after a long week at work. When the "mental" wish list started to grow innocuously until it soon encompassed the whole world, its opportunities and experiences, I left my "normal" life to fulfill some of the list's callings.

But wherever you are, its just important to never waste an hour or an opportunity when it presents itself. Say yes instead of no. No is just too easy. Be brave. Switch off the television and tick off something from your list. Then add on something new in its place. Be obscure, be inspired but most of all, be in love with life.

AND NOW FOR THE DISCLAIMER... about my writing I suppose before you read on...!

Story telling inherently favors the best and worst of experiences and memories. These stories are my personal recollections only, they are not intended to offend anyone. I ask that you treat that famous British "sarcasm" as humor and wit, view exaggeration as just poetic license and when there are (obvious) omissions, probably I made them simply to keep the travelogues shorter. Otherwise there would be too much "went from here to here" and "met blah blah blah again" and thats only interesting reading for me!

Wherever I go I know that I am still a stranger in a strange land, simply observing life and writing about it and not actually a real part of it. It would be fantastic if I could observe the world impartially. But it just isn't possible. There are the obvious limitations of time and opportunity. Add to these the less obvious limitations of me being a white westerner with red hair, too many freckles, travelling solo, somewhat vertically challenged at five foot and a bit tall, sometimes vulnerable and always a woman. All these influence my take on life and what happens in it.

Fundamentally my trip and my writing is a snapshot and not a video documentary about a place at a particular time. You could go to the same place and have a completely different experience. I hope that you do. My intention is that you read the stories and feel like I do, that I have fallen in love in some way with every country I have visited, be it a good or bad way!

Finally all my travel stories owe their existence and substance to the like-minded individuals I met along the way. Friendships made on the road can last a lifetime. They are special because they are formed based on the real person without the trimmings of money, cars, houses or careers. They are formed without regard to age, gender or culture and they survive simply because of these wonderful differences. They thrive on distance and the passing of time.

The time I spent with others, listening to their stories, sharing their adventures, means that I traveled further than a backpack and bank balance alone could ever have taken me. Whether you are featured here in name, incognito or in the shadowy figures propping up my words, thank you. It was a pleasure to share some of the journey with you. The door to happiness opens outwards and when you open it, suddenly the most amazing people just walk right on in. You know who you are!

Even if you haven't shared my physical journey, I hope that some of these stories will transport you to another place and time and make you smile. Maybe I can inspire you to unlock a few rusty doors of your own, dust off the cobwebs and see what amazing experiences come walking into your own life.
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