Does Travel Change You? (Part 3)
She left pieces of her life behind her, everywhere she went
It’s easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said
– Brian Andreas
I have covered the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of travel in my last two articles but I often ask myself WHY?
I suspect that it may have something to do with our genes – a throwback to the days when we were hunter-gatherers, and it’s cultural too – like the generations of Romanies who feel cooped up if they stay in one place for too long.
And there are also our personal stories which affect our urge to keep moving
Click on these links to read the two previous articles in this series if you missed them
In my own case, I know that I am throwing challenges at myself, proving to myself that I can cope and that I can face up to my fears; to counteract years of believing that I was a scardy-cat and that I would be unable to manage by myself.
To that end I have designed an online course which will encourage others to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem; but I digress – let’s get back to why I travel.
When my maternal grandmother had to enter a nursing home after breaking her hip my uncle gave her a blank notebook and suggested that she write. Anything; her memoirs, shopping lists; anything to keep her from going mad when all about her was ever so slightly crazy.
The furthest that my gran had travelled during her lifetime was from her home in South Wales to Cornwall and she did that only infrequently but she lit up when she talked about her adventures. And then, after she had passed away I read her journal. It was all higgledy piggledy but what shone through was her acceptance and contentment about her life and her situation. She left school and went into service aged fourteen and later she married and raised a family. She worked hard to put food on the table and often fed most of the neighbours’ kids as well.
In her notebook my Gran wrote, ‘but then I was getting on to fourteen and to the prospect of leaving school and having to earn a crust, but having no chance of a further education, hoped for wider horizons, always wanted to be a nurse like all my girl cousins on my father’s side but knew there was little hope of it coming to pass’ and in her book she also wrote how she had once had the opportunity to visit India as a teenager (imagine that in those days!) but it was vetoed by her mother.
Who would have ever guessed! Gran never gave any indication that she wanted to see more of her little world, although she embraced others who were not from hers.
She was as pleased as punch when she was allocated a family doctor who was from India and my mum tells me how she would be mortified to arrive home from school as a child and find either a gypsy or a tramp sitting by the fire. My grandmother certainly never judged and was always open minded – you can read more about how beneficial an attitude such as this can be in my article – No judgements and mindful travel
The gypsies went from house to house when they were in town selling clothes pegs or little sprigs of lucky heather. The tramps were the gentlemen of the road with their numerous bags stuffed full of their belongings, often pushed on a bicycle (I guess the forerunners of us, the perpetual backpackers), but in those days there were no flights – they wandered on foot, following their seasonal pattern around the country and returning to places where they were welcomed. One of the places where the Romanies and the tramps knew that they could always be sure of a cup of tea and a plate of food was at my gran’s home, much to my mum’s dismay.
And then when I was about seven years old some gypsies set up an encampment on some waste ground in my city. They were there for several years before the space was redeveloped and as we drove past, I would peer fascinated out of the back window of the car, straining my neck to catch sight of the little raggle-taggle children or the puppies tumbling about in the yard. If one of the caravan doors had been left open it was as if I had won the bonus prize because I could peep in on the tiny compact world where everything gleamed mirrors, chrome and glass. I wondered why society deemed it to be wrong to live this way, and if I had been older or more daring I would have loved to have run away to join them.
It was about the same time in my life that my auntie, my dad’s sister, moved to Africa. Knowing that I loved to read and that I wanted to be a journalist, we frequently exchanged letters on flimsy airmail paper which would tear if you pressed too hard with the pen.
I would take those pale blue pages covered with her handwriting and tuck myself away in a corner and transport myself away to another land. To countries where the heat shimmered on dusty horizons, there were unimaginable fruits and flowers and market places were noisy alien places. I loved to read about the staff that took care of the house, the maid and the house-boy and wished that I could have been allowed to visit and see and experience these wonders for myself. I wanted to play with the African children and run barefoot down red earth roads with them and to wake to the sound of strange birds.
And now, my cousin, my auntie’s daughter, Lucinda Paxton is forging her own way in the world as a documentary photographer, travel writer and presenter. I am totally in awe of her work and I greedily lap up every photograph and article that she posts on social media. Whether in the vibrant reds and ochres worn by the people of Ethiopia or the grainy black and white images of the gauchos in Patagonia, Lucinda captures the very essence of the people that she films and recently interviewed by The StepUp Club she gives her reasons for why she travels – and of course, her parents were a huge influence on her. Click here to read Lucinda’s interview
Only a few years ago I learnt that my own father, on finishing his stint in the army for his National Service, had applied to emigrate to New Zealand on a £10 passage. This would have included a job and accommodation – the only stipulation was that you worked in whatever job they allocated to you for at least 2 years. The forms were duly completed and posted off and the interview date arrived, but as so often, life got in the way and he never went.
I didn’t go abroad until I was 21 but I had been a voracious reader since childhood and the only classes that I didn’t skip in school were Geography and English. I lapped up everything about other cultures and countries both factual and fiction.
And then came the tipping point in my life and here I am.
You can read the first of the articles in the series here: Click here
You can read the second of the articles in the series here: Click here