In the hotel in which I’m staying the Scottish artists Dalziel and Scullion have created a series of photographic images about travel. They write
“Travelling offers time for a different type of awareness to form- of being with the self. There are opportunities to both take the long look and gaze and also be startled by what appears momentarily and then is gone forever. All of us are capable of similar journeys- to look outwards and reflect inwardly, while remaining open to new revelations. There are poignant times in everyone’s life where we need to travel- not necessarily far- in order to find ourselves.”
I began this article in my funky hotel in Glasgow and finish it in the warmth of my home here in country Victoria, Australia. In the last few days I’ve squeezed every moment out of London, spent 23 hours in a flying tube with a few hundred other people, crossed the globe and traversed seasons. It was 28 degrees in London when I left and the Heathrow Express groaned and refused to move. Mild panic but an expensive taxi ride got me to the plane on time.
I now sit, shrouded in layers of clothing and gazing at a landscape bare and resting after a long, dry summer. Winter announces itself with wild, icy winds and heavy rains here in central Victoria…( a bit like summer in the Scottish Highlands!)
Discombobulated by jet lag, I see flashes of places visited in the past month. I smile at conversations held and the wonderful people I met. I have washed my clothes and the suitcase is stored. In my home I revel in steamed vegetables, a hairdryer located near a well-lit mirror and my outraged cat who demands an explanation of where I have been for the past month! I can’t wait to see the family and hug them all. My daughter in law drove 200 kms. to make sure my heater is on and the frig stocked with goodies for my return. I feel so blessed.
But my wunderlust has not been packed away. If anything it’s a wild untamed beast that is scouring through the jungle of life looking for ways to unleash itself- and launch me back into the travel stratosphere. It was different travelling this time. I’m retired now and as my 70th birthday approaches there’s a quiet voice that says…”These are the good years…who knows what’s around the corner…Do it Now.” It’s not the screeching sound of an Instagram mantra accompanied by a floral heart. This is a quiet reflection that strips away all that is not important. My questions about continuing to travel are not why or where or even when but…… How can I make it happen? This is my focus.
So what is it about this alluring travel beast? Why do we creatures leave perfectly lovely homes and lug suitcases up flights of stairs, join cattle queues, sleep in English guest rooms that are smaller than a cupboard or subject ourselves to airline food? Why in Scotland do perfectly normal people dress in wet weather gear, carry a virtual home on their backs and tramp through sleet and snow to ” get away from it all?”
This is why I want to keep travelling…
- I like myself when I travel. I’m more open, wide-eyed, child-like. I make more of an effort to engage with people. I feel more humble & polite because I’m a stranger in their country. I laugh a lot and ask lots of questions. I’m also quiet and observe and try not too judge.
- As a retiree, the nagging voices about work have left town. It’s the first trip where I haven’t had to be ” on top of things.” I haven’t had to pull out the professional self and respond to email as a business person. Travel is self indulgent and fun.
- Its an adventure and full of learning. I would set off after breakfast with a rough plan of what I might do that day but I’d bump into the unexpected exhibition or concert. I’d bump into a conversation with someone in a coffee queue and end up visiting a different place they recommended.
- I legitimately sat with myself and gave my brain time to slow down and detox. English deck chairs in parks are a great place to observe others and spend time with your thoughts. So are train journeys and coffee stops.
- I just love the walking. Every day I’d walk until I was exhausted and then sleep like a log. The physical activity was so good for me..no hint of arthritis or back pain. I realised this has to be part of my self care plan. How I build walks of 10-30 kms a day into daily life is the challenge.
- The people you meet and the simple moments of human contact are precious. In Derbyshire I ask the way to a ticket office. A local woman gives me instructions in dialect..a bit difficult to fathom. she sees me again about an hour later and waves at me to come to her.. She says ” Ay duck I just wanted ta know, did ya sort ya sen out?” (translation- did I find the ticket office!) In London I buy picnic goodies at Marks and Sparks and head off to Hyde park on a summers lunch picnic. Being a good Aussie I plonk myself down on the grass and spread out my lunch. A young man comes walking past and asks if everything is Ok..am I all right? I smile and say ” Yes sure i’m having a Great time- look at my picnic” ” Oh good, he says..I thought you might have fallen…” Then I realise- he sees me as old- I should have been sitting in a deck-chair!!!” Priceless!
At present I look at Facebook posts from my friends. One is walking the Camino trail through Spain. Another is doing an extensive outback camping adventure. Others are in Chins, Uk and Cambodia. Another friend has just bought a house in France.Why do you travel? What does it do for you? Lets have a conversation…….