I remember my grandmother offering me sweets from a jar every time she returned from her holidays in Bournemouth. The pebble sweets always fascinated me, partly because of the real and present danger that I could crack a tooth. I always worried that somehow a real pebble may have got inside the jar and for that reason I always picked the most brightly coloured, unrealistic looking pebble that I could reach.
But primarily I was fascinated because of the multitude of colours that shone glossily through the jar in all their synthetic and artificial glory – and I wondered, where in the world would you find pebbles with those range of colours.
I don’t know much about geology but I always assumed that rocks and pebbles were found with their own kind, like the drab grey stones that you find on countless beaches in the UK, but here, on my stretch of beach in Ecuador, I have found the template for those sweets. Glistening and shining across the whole spectrum of colours, a thin line of pebbles line up on the sand at the mid-water line. If my grandmother were around today I would pack up a box and post then home for her, but I will have to be content with collecting them into a pile and taking a photograph and banking the image of them into my memory bank.
Like people, these pebbles are fascinating because of their differences. Like the grey pebbles clumped together on so many beaches, people seek out their own, whether by class, nationality or age, but isn’t life more interesting if you mix it up a bit?
I suppose that by the very nature of my current way of life you might think that I am mixing with like-minded people – travellers and backpackers – but everybody has a different reason for travelling and the histories and background of people that I meet differ massively.
I am not scared by difference. I embrace it and try to live by that old adage that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’. People generally have a knack of getting on together no matter what atrocities are reported in the media, but unfortunately some like to stir things up, setting neighbours against neighbours or sister against brother for their own ends – which sadly are usually to do with power or control rather than what is right or reasonable.
I have friends with tattoos and piercings, shaved heads or brightly coloured hair or dreadlocks. I have friends who come from many different countries and very different cultures to my own. I have friends who are still at university and friends in their seventies but when we are together age isn’t an issue. Gay, straight or transgender, they are all amazing and like the pebbles on the beach, they all shine out in their own way.
For me, the best bit of travel is the people who I am meeting along the way. Those pebbles remind me that diversity is good.