On Travel

Maybe I was born restless, but I have always loved to travel, taking every opportunity to visit a new city, country or continent. The holidays I took as a child certainly gave me a taste for adventure, though my brother took the same trips and doesn’t care to travel. A lifetime of reading has allowed me to travel to very many places, sometimes stoking a desire to go myself (Jenny Diski’s Skating to Antarctica) and sometimes removing all need (any book set in the Amazon).

Travelling is a way to take a break from reality, from routine and from the known. You can step from the plane (or train or bus) into a different world. You might not speak the language, the climate could be completely different, maybe the food is strange. And in those differences is the point of travel for me. Every mundane transaction or interaction becomes a mini adventure.

I want to sit and listen to a conversation I can’t understand, or try a faltering version of a new language myself. I love an endless road trip and the mental space it opens up, just to observe and think and daydream.

To me travel doesn’t have to be about exotic or far-flung places; it can be a day trip or weekend. I think the idea of being a tourist in your own backyard is great – why not adopt a traveller’s perspective and examine your home with fresh and curious eyes?

Of course travel is also having your bag snatched in Barcelona; ending up with so much rain in your tent you have to buy a new one; feeling scared and alone in a train station at night. Travelling can force you to draw on your deepest resources of bravery, perseverance or patience. It’s where you create your story. It might be a cliché to talk about finding yourself when on a journey, but the places I have been and people I have travelled with and met have definitely shaped me.

The list of places I’ll never get to will always be longer than the list of places I’ve been, but hopefully I have at least another 40 years of travel adventures in me. Enough time to get to India and Africa, Italy, Costa Rica and Brazil. Let’s not forget the other important function of travelling: while seeing how things are done in other parts of the world we can reflect on home. And sometimes the sweetest travel feeling of all is stepping in your own front door, dropping your bags, feeling totally secure in familiar surroundings, thankful to live exactly where you do.