I wonder what inspired you to travel?.
Did you have that lads holiday to Ibiza?. Did you have your gap year?.
Mine came from growing up in a house with my grandparents (Mums parents) who had lived in India, My Mum having been born in Calcutta, so there were always tales to be heard of living there, the exotic and the mysterious.
But money was an issue in that I couldn’t afford to travel. I didn’t have any savings and, even after commencing my Civil Service career, my wages barely covered the rent I paid to my parents and books/CDs, the usual stuff.
And then, out of the blue, I received a £10’000 inheritance and the stage was set.
I was 24 when I announced to my parents that I was going to India to see the Taj Mahal. I recall the thrill of my first flight, the chaos of India, the heat and, above all contracting Amoebic Dysentery and being off work for two months as I struggled with huge weight loss due to all sorts of unpleasant bodily functions!.
My parents fondly imagined that, being so sick, my travelling days were ended as surely I wouldn’t put myself through it all again ?.
So I told them I was going to Egypt. This was my Fathers fault!.
He had started to collect a series of books about world wonders and had received book 2, the Taj Mahal, but we never had the first in the series, The Pyramids. So, if I couldn’t read about them I would just have to go and see them, in person.
I went at the height of the Gulf War. Egypt was virtually deserted and at one stage I was on a cruise boat which could hold about 150 people, with just 10 others!. From Cairo to the amazing Abu Simbel then a full ten days cruising the Nile back up into Cairo.
I was totally hooked.
Mexico followed two years later; Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza, the Maya and the wonderful hugeness of Mexico City.
I walked through the Siq and stood in awe of Petra in Jordan, spent some time in Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia whom my grandfather had served under, had spent some time.
Becoming bolder I announced to work colleagues that I was going to Iran. One of the most welcoming places I have ever been with people so grateful we had ignored the political posturings and had come to see for ourselves what the country was like. A country of dodgy hotels, enormous kindness, incredible mosques, incredible scenery and dinner with the Minister of Tourism.
From Iran I turned my attention to Burma, a country mired in turmoil under a military dictatorship. A country it was, technically, illegal to visit. A country quite staggeringly beautiful with dodgy electrics, pagodas sheathed in gold, gentle people, a very bad case of food poisoning and a sexual assault by an Army officer.
Sri Lanka beckoned and I answered the call. A tour group that fell apart, a tour guide who refused to talk, being mistaken for the Tour Leader because I knew what was going on, an exhausting clamber up Sigirya and a Krait joining me for lunch in my hotel. Wonderful!.
When I married we honeymooned in Thailand. Then we took the step-children to Menorca. We managed a week in Luxor, Egypt.
After I divorced I didn’t travel for 6 years but, after meeting my current partner (who had never flown) I booked us a two week trip to Egypt. A week on the Nile where I could now read Hieroglyphics and a week in a hotel in Luxor from where we could get out and explore.
I expanded both our horizons by taking us to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The hustle of Bangkok, walking across the border into Cambodia, the sensation that is Angkor Wat, crossing into Vietnam on the mighty Mekong and the grim reality of the Vietnam War.
Back to India. Back to the North. Touring Rajasthan with its wonderful forts, desert scenery and protecting the women in our group when they were groped in the Taj Mahal crush.
And then to South India. Temples, heat, Jungle, the most extraordinary coincidence and the most beautiful day of my life ever, on the backwaters of Kerala.
And that’s it. So far.
Oh the tales I will tell. I may even throw in a few photos from time to time.
Catch you soon.
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